Being hundreds of miles away from Earth does not stop the astronauts on the International Space Station from celebrating Thanksgiving or having a hearty meal, as they enjoyed a traditional fare.
Thanksgiving Menu On The Space Station
NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Joe Acaba, and Randy Bresnik, along with their European colleagues, had a Thanksgiving feast, 220 miles above the Earth on the ISS.
The Thanksgiving special menu included all-time favorites like turkey, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, and cran-apple dessert.
However, the astronauts spoke about how they missed celebrating the holiday with their family, though spending it with their space family on the ISS made it special.
“We’ll appreciate the next Thanksgiving with our families that much more having missed this one,” NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik said in a video posted on social media. “Our hearts and prayers go out to those that are serving our country, not at home for this Thanksgiving, and that they are able to make it special where they are, just like we’re going to.”
How Meals Are Prepared On The ISS
There are no set menus for holidays on the space station. The crew members, however, can choose their meals from over 200 items including seasonal dishes, which are all served in pouches. All the food is already cooked and sent to the ISS, so all that has to be done onboard is perhaps adding water to the dehydrated or freeze-dried food.
For instance, turkey tetrazzini can be prepared by simply rehydrating it with water, and that was likely one of the most elaborate food preparations that the astronauts onboard the space station have to do on Thanksgiving.
The meals for the astronauts are mostly prepared at the Space Food Research Facility at Texas A&M University. Researchers there figure out the best way to transport the food from Earth to the ISS. The ready-to-eat packets of food are sealed and processed with heat to prevent any germs from getting to space. The process also gives a longer shelf life to the food.
The packaged food is then sent to the space station in bulk overwrap bags known as BOBs, which are further packed into cargo transfer bags for delivery. The food, sent to the ISS on cargo-resupply missions, is not always what the astronauts specifically want, though each crew member can also take nine personalized BOBs. They are free to share their food with their colleagues aboard the space laboratory.
Once the food is unloaded from the cargo ship, most of it is ready to eat straight out of a packet, though some of the items taste better after being heated, which is done with the help of a food warmer the size of a briefcase.