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Happy Thanksgiving, from the International Space Station

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Thanksgiving aboard the International Space Station will have many traditional ingredients, with a few concessions made to meet the challenges of creating a holiday dinner 260 miles above the surface of the Earth.

Space travelers will dine on turkey, yams, mushrooms and green beans. However, these traditional Thanksgiving Day delicacies will be enjoyed in freeze-dried form, and served from packets. Thermostabilized cherry-blueberry cobbler will be on the menu for dessert.

Space food has remained largely unchanged since the early 1980's, when the Space Shuttle program first got off the ground. Mission planners at NASA have spent the last three decades trying to develop food products that will store for longer periods of time than now possible, in order to supply a human mission to Mars in the 2030's. Space travelers aboard the orbiting outpost have also been growing lettuce and other vegetables aboard the ISS. In the long run, humans will need to grow plants aboard space stations and crew vehicles in order to provide sustenance for the colonization of the final frontier.

"Scientists believe most food items in the transit food system on future deep space missions will resemble those used on the station. Advanced processing and packaging methods will be needed to provide extended shelf lives and improved nutrition for the longer missions," NASA officials announced in a blog post announcing details of Thanksgiving in space.

Sweet potatoes may be one Thanksgiving staple good that could be found in space gardens of the future. The vegetable grows rapidly in controlled conditions, under artificial lights. Roots of the plant develop into the common vegetable, which is rich in energy-delivering carbohydrates. Shoots which spring from the side of stems can be harvested, and eaten as a tasty addition to salads, making the species even more valuable to spacefarers.

The Expedition 42 crew currently living aboard the International Space Station includes Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore and flight engineer Terry Virts, along with Italy's first woman in space, Samantha Cristoforetti, who is operating as a flight engineer aboard the ISS.

Stored food and salad crops will be used in the early stages of planetary stays until permanent living bases are constructed," the space agency reported.

Cornbread stuffing will also be on the menu for the Expedition 42 crew, created from an instant mix developed by nutritional experts at NASA.

Space food was first developed in the earliest days of the space race. Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, ate from three tubes, like those that dispense toothpaste. Two of these contained meat puree, while the third held chocolate sauce.

One treat the astronauts will be able to enjoy for the first time beyond Earth - real Italian espresso, available from the first microgravity espresso maker, recently delivered to the space station.

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