For 10 Astronauts, A Thanksgiving In Space

For 10 Astronauts, A Thanksgiving In Space
Following a space-to-Earth press conference on Nov. 21, 2008, members of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Endeavour crews posed for a group portrait on the orbital outpost. Astronaut Donald Pettit appears at photo center. Just below Pettit is astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshin-Piper. Clockwise from her position are astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Steve Bowen, Eric Boe, Chris Ferguson and Michael Fincke, along with cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov, and astronauts Sandra Magnus and Gregory Chamitoff.
(Image: © NASA.)

This story was updated at 10:23 a.m. EST.

It's Thanksgiving Day on Earth and in space today, and for 10 astronauts at the International Space Station it'll be one to remember.

The seven astronauts of NASA's space shuttle Endeavour will gather together with the station's three-person crew for as traditional a Thanksgiving meal as possible in orbit before shutting the hatches between their two spacecraft. They're nearing the end of almost two weeks of space renovations to ready the station for larger, six-person crews next year.

While space station crews have celebrated Thanksgiving every year since 2000, it's the first time in six years that a U.S. space shuttle as been in orbit on the U.S. holiday. Both astronaut crews will take some time off for a meal that, according to Endeavour skipper Chris Ferguson, should be pretty tasty.

"We've managed to scare up a full Thanksgiving dinner complements of some rations the food people back in Houston were nice enough to put together for us," Ferguson said. "We'll have a true Thanksgiving feast."

On the menu: Smoked turkey, candied yams, green beans and mushrooms, cornbread dressing and a cranapple dessert.

"I'm looking forward to the turkey," Endeavour astronaut Steve Bowen told SPACE.com before flight, adding that it's a family staple. "I always like turkey with a little cranberry sauce, so I'm interested in how that's going to taste in space."

The astronauts won't, however, be washing their meals down with any of the recycled water from a new system they activated — after several days of glitches — at the station to convert urine and sweat back into drinking water. Regular tea with sugar will suffice, according to their menus.

"The NASA engineers don't want us to drink any of it right now. We're taking all the samples back home for analysis," Endeavour astronaut Don Pettit said of the urine recycler.  "We're going to get a number of weeks running on the machine before they're going to bless the operation for human consumption. And I think that's the smart thing to do."

Turkey in space

Ferguson said the Thanksgiving dining room for today's meal will be the station's Harmony module, a connecting room delivered to the orbiting lab last year that serves as the front door to the outpost. From the module, astronauts can fly into U.S., European and Japanese laboratories depending on which hatch they choose.

NASA roused the crew with the song "Hold on Tight" by the band Electric Light Orchestra, a tune chosen for Endeavour astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper as a Thanksgiving treat for her and the entire crew.

"Thank you for that great song on this Thanksgiving Day that we can give thanks for what we have and never stop dreaming," Stefanyshyn-Piper said.

Endeavour's STS-126 astronauts didn't have enough Thanksgiving fare for all 10 members of the joint shuttle-station crew, so they've scrounged up food from other meals to create worthy sendoff meal.

"It's going to be sad tomorrow to see all our STS-126 friends leave, but it's going to be a Happy Thanksgiving," station commander Michael Fincke told Mission Control late Wednesday.

Renovated space station

Endeavour astronauts are wrapping up a nearly two-week orbital makeover at the space station, where they delivered the urine recycler along with two spare bedrooms, a second kitchen and bathroom, new gym equipment and a space food refrigerator. They also performed an unprecedented four-spacewalk lube job to grease up a balky solar array-turning gear and clean metal grit from its inner mechanism.

But today, they'll take a half-day off to rest and enjoy one last group meal before shutting the hatches between their two spacecraft at about 5:55 p.m. EST (2255 GMT).

Back on Earth, Thanksgiving will actually come three times — once per shift — at the station and Endeavour's Mission Control rooms in Houston.

"We have folks that are willing to feed us," said space station flight director Holly Ridings. "So they'll be bringing Thanksgiving to us."

Want to put a taste of space in your Thanksgiving dinner? Try this NASA-approved recipe: Space Cornbread Dressing.

NASA is providing live coverage of Endeavour's STS-126 mission on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com's mission coverage and NASA TV feed.

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