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Space station crew members
Space station astronauts Joe Acaba, Randy Bresnik, Paolo Nespoli and Mark Vande Hei show off pouches filled with turkey, mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing. (NASA via YouTube)

Thanksgiving Day is a workday on the International Space Station, but it’s still a special day for the station’s six crew members — even for the ones who aren’t American.

“I’m Italian, and we don’t have Thanksgiving,” the European Space Agency’s Paolo Nespoli said in NASA’s holiday video. “It’s not that we don’t say thanks, but we don’t have the celebration of Thanksgiving.”

Except in orbit.

The tasks on the Thanksgiving agenda include processing cargo that arrived last week aboard a robotic Cygnus spaceship. But at the end of the day, the three Americans on board— Randy Bresnik, Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei — will kick back with Nespoli and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazansky.

A traditional Thanksgiving space dinner will be put together from pouches. In addition to irradiated smoked turkey, the menu features mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, candied yams, apple sauce to drink, and cranapple dessert as the capper.

The American spacefliers said they’ll also check in with their families for the holidays via space-to-ground communication links.

Being away from home for Thanksgiving is just part of the job for spacefliers. “A lot of us, because of the military background, being an astronaut, we’ve been away from home quite a bit,” Acaba said.

Bresnik was in orbit aboard the space shuttle Atlantis during his one previous spaceflight in 2009. “Certainly the thought of a home-cooked meal is something that really appeals to me,” he admitted.

But the astronauts aren’t complaining.

“Being anyplace where you’re surrounded by friends really makes Thanksgiving special,” Vande Hei said, “and we certainly have that going on up here.”

Bresnik is due to get home in mid-December, just in time for Christmas, while Acaba and Vande Hei will spend the whole holiday season in space and fly back to Earth in February.

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