Thanksgiving in space: How space station astronauts get grateful

The International Space Station astronauts get Thanksgiving off and eat dehydrated food, and sometimes they even share the American holiday with Russian cosmonauts.

YouTube/NASA
In a YouTube screenshot of a NASA video from the International Space Station, astronauts Scott Kelly (left) and Kjell Lindgren (right) show off their Thanksgiving dinner of space food.

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and gathering even in space, as American astronauts celebrate the holiday and can invite Russian astronauts to join.

The International Space Station's American astronauts sent Thanksgiving greetings back to Earth in a video Monday.

"We are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be up on the International Space Station here working and living in this amazing orbiting laboratory, a physical manifestation of what is possible when the great countries of the world work together with communication, cooperation, and collaboration towards peaceful means," Kjell Lindgren said.

Scott Kelly said living high above the world's tallest mountains on the International Space Station "gives us a different perspective on what it means to be a citizen of Planet Earth."

In a sign of how far things have come since the international space race that helped make NASA what it is today, Kelly was launched to the space station in the Baikonur Cosmodrome alongside two Russian astronauts in March. Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko launched with Kelly and is part of the same study as Kelly. Both are spending a year in space so scientists can better understand the long-term impacts of space life on the human body.

The American astronauts may share a little dehydrated turkey with their Russian counterparts this year, as they have done during past Thanksgiving dinners aboard the International Space Station. On Thanksgiving Day in 2008, the crews of the Endeavor and the International Space Station held a shared dinner in the Russian Zvezda Service Module, according to a NASA mission report.

They sent back a crowded photo of 10 Americans and one Russian breaking bread (figuratively speaking – crumbs and microgravity are a bad combination) together for an American holiday, the Associated Press reported.

In 2003, NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson described hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for fellow astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, in a Thanksgiving feature by NASA.

"Blueberry-cherry cobbler, compliments of our guests, and served on a tortilla was a real dessert treat for the Station crew, since that was not included in our meal rotations," she said. "Celebrating this holiday in space with some visiting friends was a very special experience, one that I will remember fondly in Thanksgivings to come."

The astronauts have not been immune to some upsetting current news trends back on their home planet, but Kelly said in the video that it makes him grateful to be an American.

"It just makes me really thankful to live in a country like the United States that provides us with freedom and opportunity."

Kelly and Lindgen shared their Thanksgiving plans: a day off, some afternoon football, and a space food turkey dinner. They showed off their dehydrated dinner and pulled out little, sealed packages of smoked turkey, candied yams, "rehydratable" corn, and potatoes au gratin. Kelly opened the candied yams, which wriggled slowly around his hand as he squeezed them out.

"Man, they are delicious," Kelly said as Lindgren laughed.

Viewers hoping for a space flip were not disappointed. At the end of the Thanksgiving message, both astronauts performed zero-g flips, dehydrated yams floating around their heads.

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