Thanksgiving in Space: NASA Launches Care Package

Unlike the one your mom sent you in college, this one weighs nearly four tons.

By Ethan L. Johns
November 22, 2017

Image: NASA

As Americans gather around their Thanksgiving tables, sitting in chairs firmly anchored to the ground by gravity and the excess weight of three servings of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, the crew aboard the International Space Station will be enjoying a slightly different experience.

In the early hours of a freezing-cold Saturday in Virginia, a crowd gathered to watch as a massive 652,000-pound Antares rocket lifted off for the International Space Station. Strapped to the rocket was the Cygnus cargo ship, filled with 7,400 pounds of supplies. Among these supplies are care packages from the astronauts’ families, research equipment (including E. coli samples—but don’t worry, NASA’s not trying to poison the astronauts) and, of course, Thanksgiving foods and Christmas gifts. Ground control also included a “cool box” for the spacemen of Expedition 53, which is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Thanksgiving for astronauts is not like the one Americans celebrate on the ground. First off, there’s no alcohol allowed on the space station (and no crazy relatives), so brawls don’t generally occur after somebody starts talking politics. Second, astronauts eat carefully rationed freeze-dried food, which has to be rehydrated before they can eat it. So no over-eating.

Last year’s crew enjoyed turkey, green beans, candied yams, mashed potatoes, cherry-blueberry cobbler and iced tea.

After leftovers have been thoroughly eaten to the point where nobody wants more for another year (how convenient!), there is likely to be some trash. The astronauts will refill the Cygnus container with all of their waste and send it off to be incinerated—which in this case just means sending it back into the atmosphere, where it will burn up.

This Thanksgiving, keep the astronauts in mind and be thankful for a fresh, hot meal. And maybe have an extra glass of punch in their honor.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns