What is Thanksgiving Like Aboard the International Space Station?

The same as every day: Awesome.

The crew of Expedition 53 currently aboard the International Space Station will have to work on Thanksgiving unlike many of us, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take some time to celebrate Turkey day like they would with their families here on Earth.

Just last week, NASA launched a resupply mission to low-Earth orbit for the crew of the orbiting laboratory atop an Orbital ATK rocket so they will have to spend the holiday continuing to unload the Cygnus cargo spacecraft. But, the international crew will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together once they are done.

NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei, and Joe Acabra will share their holiday tradition with ESA’s Italian Astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian Cosmonauts Sergey Ryazansky and Alexander Misurkin.

It sure seems that the food of choice aboard the space station is Mexican considering all the social media posts we’ve seen with Burritos and Tacos, but that doesn’t quite do for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Unless you’re a college freshman.

Last Thanksgiving, on November 24th, 2016, the crew of Expedition 50 enjoyed the essentials: Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, and some Vegetables––all rehydrated after being shipped up on a resupply run.

Holidays are accounted for on these resupply runs and will even include Christmas gifts for the crew. Santa doesn’t have orbital rocket capability just yet.

The crew is also scheduled family time via telephone or video conferencing on traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and that will certainly be the case with the current members of Expedition 53. Family time, especially during the holidays, is essential for crew morale––especially for those who have elongated stays in space.

“Being in space doesn’t mean you have to miss a holiday—in fact, the American astronauts on board the International Space Station have been thinking about some of their past Thanksgivings, ones celebrated at a much lower altitude than the one they’ll observe this year,” said NASA in a press release.

The agency published a special Thanksgiving reflection video featuring the space station’s astronauts:

“Listen as Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba recall times with family and friends, meat stuffing and the ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving shrimp cocktail, and neighborhood meals served outside on the sidewalk.”

NASA also published a special Thanksgiving recipe from NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory for a staple that astronauts aboard the space station may enjoy on everyone’s favorite eating holiday:


12 cups crumbled cornbread

3 3/4 cups chicken broth

2 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. dried parsley flakes

1 tsp. rubbed sage


  • Preheat convection oven to 325° F. Conventional oven should be heated to 350° F.

  • Grease 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

  • Peel onions and puree in food processor. Place in bowl. Set aside.

  • Finely chop celery in food processor. Add to onion puree. Set aside.

  • Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Melt butter and sauté onion and celery mixture until soft (about 5 minutes).

  • Add to crumbled, prepared cornbread. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine salt, poultry seasoning, black pepper, parsley, and sage.

  • Add to cornbread-sautéed vegetables mixture.

  • Add chicken broth. Mix well. Spoon dressing into prepared baking pan.

  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes at 325° F or 350° F, depending on oven.

For spaceflight preparation:

Baked dressing is transferred to metal tray and freeze-dried accordingly. One serving of cornbread dressing shall weigh approximately 145 g prior to freeze-drying and 50 g after freeze-drying.

Photo credits: NASA


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