This Thanksgiving, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will spend the day hard at work before chowing down on a space-friendly version of a traditional turkey dinner.
In past years, NASA astronauts have taken off from work on Thanksgiving Day, but this year, they'll be working up an appetite doing science all day before gathering for dinner. Of the six crewmembers currently on the ISS, only two are Americans — Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson — but everyone on the station will come together at the dinner table.
"We're obviously going to be talking about what Thanksgiving means to us, what we're thankful for, and sharing the tradition with our French and Russian colleagues," Kimbrough said in a video.
Before dinner, Kimbrough will spend the day installing a new centrifuge in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, NASA Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot told Space.com in an email. Whitson will be working with cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov, operating an ultrasound to do baseline scans for the Fluid Shifts study, which will investigate the cause of changes in eyesight that astronauts often experience after spaceflight.
The two other Russian cosmonauts, Andrei Borisenko and Oleg Novitskiy, will unload cargo from the Soyuz spacecraft that arrived Saturday (Nov. 19) and replace a control panel in the Russian Service Module. Meanwhile, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will read a children's book aloud on camera for kids on Earth to watch as a part of a project called "Story Time from Space." Pesquet will also take measurements for the AquaMembrane investigation, which aims to create a more efficient water recycling system for the ISS.
Once everyone's work is done, the six crewmembers will gather in the Zvezda Service Module to celebrate Thanksgiving the American way: sharing what they're thankful for with one another, and then digging into a meal consisting of turkey, green beans, candied yams, mashed potatoes and more. "We're going to work all day, and then we're going to have an evening big dinner full of most of the things you're going to have at your table," Kimbrough said.
But instead of eating off of plates and enjoying a glass of wine, everything the astronauts consume will come straight out of prepackaged pouches. Much of the food items are freeze-dried or dehydrated, so the crew will need to add water before eating it. [Yum! How Thanksgiving Meals for Astronauts Are Made (Video)]
Drinking alcohol is also forbidden on the ISS, so the astronauts instead will enjoy pouches of sweet tea. "I'm from Atlanta, so I can't have Thanksgiving dinner without having some sweet tea," Kimbrough said. For dessert, they'll enjoy packets of cherry-and-blueberry cobbler.
Though bags of dried-up food items might not sound like the most appetizing Thanksgiving feast to people on Earth, Kimbrough assured, "it'll taste really good, just like you're having at home." However, unlike many Americans on Thanksgiving, the ISS crew will not be stuffing themselves to the point of a "food coma." Rather, their portion sizes are strictly controlled, so overeating isn't an option.
Instead of passing out on a couch, Kimbrough plans to spend his evening watching American football. "Thanksgiving in my world is not complete without some football, so we're going to have mission control send up some live football games for us to watch to complete the experience of Thanksgiving," he said.