Space Station's Crew Getting Turkey for Thanksgiving

A NASA blog revealed the menu: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized candied yams, freeze-dried green beans and mushrooms, freeze-dried cornbread dressing, and thermostabilized cherry-blueberry cobbler for dessert.

Thanksgiving Day 2014 for the six people on board the International Space Station at the moment, who are orbiting 260 miles above the Earth, will include a "somewhat traditional Thanksgiving dinner but with a few tweaks," NASA reported on one of its blogs Nov. 24.

The crew's feast will be come from bags of freeze-dried, irradiated, and thermostabilized food bags, items which the blog post called "traditional holiday fare with a space-food flair." The menu is irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized candied yams, freeze-dried green beans and mushrooms, freeze-dried cornbread dressing, and thermostabilized cherry-blueberry cobbler.

The crew members are Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore of NASA; Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA; Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov, Alexander Samokutyaev, and Elena Serova of Russia's Roscosmos; and Italian Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency.

The blog post said space station food generally resembles the food consumed during NASA space shuttle missions three decades ago; NASA is working on ways to extend the shelf life of food needed for deep space missions and also ways to minimize the volume of packaging, and the station is a test bed for growing plants such as lettuce in space. "Future crew members spending Thanksgiving in space may have one traditional staple, fresh sweet potatoes. The sweet potato may be one of the crops chosen for crews to grow on deep space missions. It provides an important energy source — carbohydrate — as well as beta-carotene," it stated. "The sweet potato is able to adapt to a controlled environment with artificial sunlight. It is highly adaptable to a variety of vine-training architectures. The main shoot tip, or the end of the main vine, is the only really sensitive part. It sends hormones throughout the plant that stimulate root development, which is important since it is the roots that become the sweet potatoes. The side shoots, if picked when young, are tender and can be eaten in salads, improving the plant's usefulness."

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