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A Holiday Dinner in Space
International space station crew eating a holiday meal
Image above: The crew of international space station Expedition 3 enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in space.
Credit: NASA
What's the best part of the holidays? Children might think it's the break from school. Adults might think it's the food. A lot of people focus on eating during the holidays. These days include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Russian Orthodox Christmas, New Year's Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice. Do you know what foods the astronauts and cosmonauts think about when they're in space for the holidays?

Astronauts from all over the world live on the international space station. They have their own customs. They enjoy different foods for their holidays. NASA lets the crew members decide if they want holiday meals. They also let astronauts choose the foods for their special dinners.

International space station crew eats a meal
Image above: The crew of international space station Expedition 7 prepares to eat a space meal. Credit: NASA
NASA food scientists find foods that astronauts enjoy eating and ensure the foods are good for the crew. They also have to find foods that can make the 240-mile trip into space.

The crew members are given a list of foods. They get to choose three meals and some snacks per day. If crew members want to have an American holiday feast, they can. They can choose from smoked turkey, dried mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

Family members also send goodie bags to the astronauts. The bags can hold chocolate bars, candy canes and other treats.

Food items float in microgravity
Image above: In microgravity, foods float unless they're held down. Credit: NASA
The space station has no refrigerator or stove. There is a table, but there are no chairs! Crew members float around the table. They eat most meals from disposable containers with a spoon.

When astronauts travel to the moon and Mars, it will be harder to take their favorite foods on the long trip. They will grow many foods on their space ships. Tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, strawberries and peppers can be picked and eaten. There is no cooking needed. Other foods, like potatoes, wheat, soybeans, peanuts and rice, will take more work! Space travelers will become gardeners as well as explorers. Growing their own food will help them live when they're in space. It will keep the weight of the spaceship down. And it will give them fresh goodness.

A display of space-ready food items
Image above: Astronaut Jerry Ross displays some of the food items used in space. Credit: NASA
Related Resources
See the menus selected for the Expedition 12 crew
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An Out-of-This-World Thanksgiving Dinner
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Space Ice Cream
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A history of food in space
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NASA's Advanced Food Technologies for future missions
+ View site

Maggie Griffin/NASA Educational Technology Services