Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA explained on a video recorded November 18 how he and his crew are going to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thursday is a work day in the  International Space Station, but Thanksgiving dinner is happening. The astronauts will eat turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, and blueberry cobbler for dessert.

There are six people in the ISS, and only two are Americans: Commander Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson. The rest of the crew is one Frenchman and three Russians, and although they do not celebrate Thanksgiving in their countries, the Americans astronauts will teach them about the cultural aspects of this holiday and will share why they are thankful for during dinner.

Astronauts at the ISS will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Photo credit: NASA Youtube Channel
Astronauts at the ISS will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Photo credit: NASA Youtube Channel

In the video, Kimbrough shows the space food specially prepared for this occasion. Turkey, candied yams, green beans, and mushrooms, and the blueberry cobbler come in packages that only have to be heated to taste like a homemade meal back in America. The bags containing mashed potatoes and, of course, cornbread dressing have to be rehydrated -they need water- before they are hit up to be ready to eat.

The Commander stated that Thanksgiving dinner at the ISS is going to be “a little bit” different in space, but he added he would try to make it as much like people do it back on Earth as possible. And because the ISS Commander is from Atlanta, the meal is going to include sweet tea, a tradition in the state during Thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday dinner will also have football, to “complete the experience.” The American crew members are going to make sure to explain and share their country’s tradition with their colleagues to make them feel part of the American experience.

Preparing meals to take to space: A careful process to satisfy astronauts cravings

The Texas A&M lab and their space products made in College Station are the ones behind the Thanksgiving menu, and the rest of the meals astronauts enjoy in space. The  Space Food Research Facility in Houston, Texas is in charged of making thermostabilized dishes for NASA. The process is similar to canning food and allows the products to be preserved without refrigeration.

Ben O’Neil, food scientist, and director of the lab explained that meals for astronauts are made with fresh groceries bought in local grocery stores or from food distributors. The dishes are cooked with the help of four to six students working in the lab who weigh the ingredients to make sure each meal has the adequate nutrition levels.

After the meals are done, they are placed in packages heat-sealed. All foods going to space have to be sterilized. Thus, the packages, once sealed, are heated to 250 degrees to remove any bacteria and organism.

The space food, known as meals ready to eat (MRE) can last up to two years but because they lose flavor, not because they get discomposed. The lab produces around 63 entrees and desserts for NASA.

Astronauts sample and choose what they want to eat during their missions, which explains why the current ISS crew will have turkey for Thursday dinner. O’Neil confessed that the most requested meal is chocolate pudding cake. He said that their products, despite being thermostabilized, taste “pretty good,” reported The Eagle, the Texas A&M University newspaper.

Source: NASA’s Youtube Video