Thanksgiving Dinner is Sadder in Space

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Today, millions of Americans are traveling to spend Thanksgiving Day with their loved ones. But for the astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station, going home for the holiday isn’t an option. The station will host a Thanksgiving meal of its own, but while we’ve come a long way from the powders and edible goo of early spaceflight, the irradiated turkey and freeze-dried beans are a far cry from home cooking.When John Glenn first when into space, the sustanance astronauts were expected to eat could hardly be considered food: pastes, cubes, and powders provided the necessary protein and vitamins, but were found universally unpalatable. Although the food options more closely resemble what you’d find on Earth, foods sent into space still need to be pre-cooked, preserved, and rendered bacteria free. And the relationship between NASA’s Thanksgiving dinner and the traditional feast are largely superficial:

For the Thanksgiving dinner, the smoked turkey was irradiated and the green beans and dressing were freeze-dried, a form of dehydration. The candied yams and dessert were heated. A week before Thanksgiving, NASA gave reporters a taste-test of the astronauts' holiday dinner. The smoked turkey was slightly stiffer than deli meat, like after it has been left in the refrigerator a week past its expiration date. The candied yams had a syrupy sweetness outside that dissolved into blandness in the middle. The green beans with mushrooms tasted like they have been frozen and then microwaved to an inch of their life. The saving grace was a sublime cranapple dessert. There was a tartness to the apples and sweetness to the cranberries mixed with pecans and syrup in a dish that resembles cobbler filling.


The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, which is currently docked at the Space Station brought the meal with them along with them the station’s first-ever food refrigerator, so the occupants might enjoy another Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers. [Discovery News]