Thanksgiving is a holiday that every American should get to celebrate, even astronauts, and so, this year, their Thanksgiving meal in space will include irradiated smoked turkey and thermo-stabilized candied yams.
And if these mouth-watering dishes don’t sound like much, how about some freeze-dried cornbread dressing or a bit of thermo-stabilized blueberry cobbler for desert? American astronauts aboard the International Space Station are also celebrating the holiday and festivities should, at least in part, also be possible at zero-gravity. Green beans, mashed potatoes and mushrooms will also be a part of the menus.
How is this possible? Well NASA allows crew members to carry special containers including items they wish to use during specific holidays, namely Thanksgiving or Christmas. Vickie Kloeris, the International Space Station Food System Manager explains that this special turkey had to be irradiated in order to become shelf-stable. All that astronauts need to do is to heat it up and eat it.
As opposed to the turkey, which comes in a packet, the candied yams (previously thermo-stabilized) come in a pouch. The mushrooms, green beans and mashed potatoes as well as the dressing were freeze dried.
As beverages, Kloeris explains, astronauts can choose from powered beverages or lemon tea which can be rehydrated. These special containers often carry other items such as cranberry sauce or frosting, so that crew members can also have a bit of fun with decorating holiday cookies.
Each International Space Station crew member requires approximately four pounds of food per day, and as such, the ISS Food System has to adequately prepare meals in advance. There are no dedicated freezers and as such, each portion of food must be shelf-stable for long periods of time.
Ms. Kloeris explains that the team normally works 18 months in advance, using a standard menu which can be altered here and there. There are of course preferences for each crew member that are taken into account, so that astronauts receive containers with their selection and their names on them.
Freeze-dried products are ideal for such conditions, seeing that they offer adequate shelf stability. Other products are either canned or irradiated, especially where meat is concerned, Ms. Kloeris added.