In case anyone’s wondering: Thanksgiving in space is pretty much the same as Thanksgiving on Earth. At least, that’s what it looks like from the video message taped earlier in the week of NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore – the commander of the Expedition 42 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Wilmore, who currently resides in the orbiting laboratory, received a day off this Thursday (Nov.27) to share a traditional holiday meal with his crewmates. Included on the in-flight menu are zero-g versions of classic Thanksgiving dishes: smoked turkey, green beans and mushrooms, candied yams, cornbread stuffing – and for dessert, cherry-blueberry cobbler. Crewmembers also enjoyed some of their personal favorite items.
“I’m from Tennessee, so I grew up drinking sweet tea – so I’ve got a little sweet tea as well,” said Wilson in his video. “So, we’re going to have all of that up here and try to share in the spirit of the season.”
Bringing Thanksgiving to space, however, requires some ingenuity. To ensure a long shelf life, food must either be freeze-dried or thermostabilized – a process similar to canning that utilizes pouches.
Certain foods, such as sweet potatoes, may also be grown in space – although the technology to do so is not yet utilized. According to NASA officials, however, extended space missions to Mars will eventually require astronauts to learn how to do so.
In the meantime, candied yams will suffice. Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been celebrated aboard the station since 2000 – after the arrival of the first Americans. This year is no different. Despite being nearly 250 miles above Earth’s surface in a zero-gravity environment, Wilson makes sure to mention who and what he’s thankful for.
“There’s so much we have to be thankful for in this nation. Freedom, of course, being the most obvious one. I’m thankful for the people that get up in the morning…to do their jobs, and their jobs entail things that mean that they may not comb back. I’m talking specifically about our military. People around the globe that are doing things day-in and day-out that make a difference for freedom.”
To check out the video, click here.