What's in a Space Station Thanksgiving?

Way up there in outer space, the International Space Station crew is being deprived of the traditional Thanksgiving we're all enjoying -- you know, that complicated dance of balancing gobbling turkey, stuffing, pie and enough booze before someone you're related to brings up either politics or religion and you get too busy screaming they're wrong or biting your lip (personal choice) to eat or imbibe -- but the crew is still getting a Thanksgiving meal, albeit the outer-space version of it.

"We are happy to be up here orbiting above the Earth. If we can't be with our families during the holidays, then this is the next best place we'd like to be," NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio said in the Thanksgiving message from the International Space Station's Expedition 38 Crew while crew member Mike Hopkins nodded and smiled.

Thanksgiving is a working holiday for the crew, but they will be having irradiated smoked turkey (hopefully more delicious than it sounds), freeze-dried green beans and thermostabilized yams (which sounds both tasty and like a science experiment.) The meal will also include potatoes and bread -- both are easy on the preparation scale; they just have to be heated up -- NASA's cornbread dressing, freeze-dried cranberries and cherry blueberry cobbler, according to none other than the folks at NASA.

While this all sounds like a pretty basic Turkey Day meal, it's a part of the result of tons of research over at the Johnson Space Center, where folks have been working for ages to improve the food, minimize packaging and extend shelf life.

So the odds are good they won't be watching football while orbiting 260 miles above the Earth, but they aren't missing all the good stuff. Plus, they get to miss fighting about politics and Thanksgiving travel traffic. Not too shabby.

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