NASA Astronauts First Celebrated Thanksgiving in Space in 1973
Every year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast and a lot of family time. But did you know that this day of thanks is not exclusive to Earth? Celebrating Thanksgiving in space has become a holiday tradition for astronauts and astronauts-to-be. Preparing meals for astronauts while they are in space can be quite challenging due to weightlessness and limited resources available onboard spacecrafts or stations. As such, many foods have had to be modified or replaced entirely depending on what is available at that particular moment in time! For instance, during some missions it may not be possible to bring fresh produce into orbit so canned fruits and vegetables must suffice instead. Furthermore, certain items like gravy cannot be packed into tubes or pouches because they require additional heat before serving – something that isn’t always feasible during certain missions.
However, starting in 1973, NASA was able to overcome these difficulties to allow their crews a scientifically grown, rather than homegrown, feast. Skylab 3 became the first crewed mission to spend Thanksgiving in space, and the three astronauts—Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson—celebrated by having a traditional meal that included rehydrated turkey, peas, potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce, cherry-blueberry cobbler…the works! This was one of the first meals that had been prepared specifically for astronauts while they were in space, and the food was served on carefully designed trays and eaten with plastic utensils because metal utensils weren’t allowed on board due to safety regulations.
To make it feel more like home, they even decorated their capsule with homemade decorations made from scraps of material found onboard, such as paper leaves and a tree made from aluminum foil.
After dinner, they continued the festivities, including playing a trivia game about American history and geography that was made specifically for the Skylab mission crew. They also read passages from various books about Pilgrims and early settlers who celebrated the first Thanksgiving back on Earth in 1621.
NASA continued the tradition over the years by sending special food packages to mark the occasion. Astronauts have enjoyed dishes such as smoked turkey tetrazzini and chocolate covered roasted almonds for decades – not too shabby for 100 miles above sea level!
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are also able to communicate with family members on Earth via video calls which allow them to enjoy a virtual dinner together bridging the stratosphere.
Thanksgiving has come a long way since its humble beginnings on Earth centuries ago; now it continues to be celebrated every year by astronauts who have dedicated their lives to exploration beyond our planet’s atmosphere. Whether you’re celebrating here on Earth or 100 miles up in orbit around our beautiful planet, one thing is certain: we are all connected through this shared holiday experience that has been passed down through generations. Happy Thanksgiving!
Read more NASA history of Thanksgiving in Space in their own chronicle.
Uri, J., & Mars, K. (2022, November 23). Thanksgiving celebrations in Space. NASA. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/thanksgiving-celebrations-in-space-2022