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Astronauts offer their thanks, giving space on the shuttle

Thanksgiving astronaut-style: Endeavour's crew has turkey with green bean casserole, candied yams, cornbread dressing and a cranberry dessert for their holiday meal. (collectSPACE)
November 27, 2008

— Space shuttle Endeavour's crew of seven American astronauts are spending Thanksgiving on the International Space Station today, sharing a traditional (well, almost) dinner with the outpost's three residents and offering their gratitude to those who got them there through a small, but special payload.

"They sent us up with enough meals for the shuttle crew for Thanksgiving, with turkey and cornbread dressing, a cranberry dessert, and candied yams, and... green bean casserole," STS-126 mission specialist Stephen Bowen described on Tuesday during an in-flight media interview. "Since then, we've been kind of collecting food now that we're going to be here with the ISS crew, and now we are going to have enough food for everybody onboard, which is part of Thanksgiving anyway, sharing what you have."

If the thought of a space food Thanksgiving brings to mind squeeze tubes, think again. This is not your father's three- course astronaut dinner.

"It may be called space food, but it is actually very good," added Endeavour's commander Chris Ferguson. "A lot of it is thermostabilized, a lot of the meals come from the military and it's food like you and I enjoy at home. I'm from the Navy and I like Navy food, and I enjoy space food as well."

Don't let Ferguson fool you, though. There is something missing from his ideal Thanksgiving meal aboard the ISS.

"I like the white meat with the gravy, that's my favorite," he admitted in a pre-flight interview with collectSPACE. Though their menu includes smoked breast meat, NASA hasn't yet perfected the art of flying gravy.

"It is a little more challenging when you can't open every thing up in the same way and put dressings on," explained pilot Eric Boe. "It is usually bunched together but that is usually how it ends up on my plate anyway, so I am sure it is going to taste great."

For mission specialist Shane Kimbrough, it is not about the dressing, but how the turkey is prepared.

"Just a fresh one that came out of the oven, which we won't have," he shared of his favorite kind of turkey. The ISS's galley has an oven, but its more of a food warmer than it is capable of baking. "I am not sure I am going to get my wish," resigned Kimbrough.

NASA's cornbread dressing doesn't compare to Stefanyshyn- Piper's own recipe for stuffing. (collectSPACE)

And though she said she prefers dark meat, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was more concerned about the sides.

"I like my stuffing," she stated proudly. "I don't know what makes it special, but I think it is the way I like it. I use bread cubes instead of bread crumbs. I know some people will sometimes run it through a food mill or something, but I like the chunkiness. I put celery and onions, and I even put a little mushrooms in there. I just like the textures in it. And it's mine."

According to Stefanyshyn-Piper, there just wasn't enough time before the flight to get her stuffing packed for launch.


What did make it aboard Endeavour were small souvenirs intended to convey the crew's gratitude for those close to them.

"I have brought a lot of things for the folks who worked on this mission," Ferguson explained. "The first time I flew, I brought the things I wanted, like the flags for my home school, a t-shirt for my high school. But I have asked a lot of the folks who worked very hard this flight, and there are thousands, but the folks who we worked day in and day out, 'Is there anything I could take for you on the shuttle?'"

"That is my way for just giving a little back," he shared.

The crew members, as well as divisions within NASA and its contractors, can request to have items flown inside the Official Flight Kit (OFK). Limited to two cubic feet (0.057 cubic meters) in size, the OFK is flown on every mission as a means of providing a token of gratitude to the groups that contribute to the mission's (and astronauts') success.

Boe, who like Kimbrough and Bowen was making his first spaceflight, wanted to give back to the organizations that prepared him to launch into orbit.

"From Georgia Tech, I have a shirt that is going up, and I have a cap from the Air Force Academy." He also took "a few odds and ends from the the units I was in or programs that I participated in along the way."

Stefanyshyn-Piper carried items for similar reasons as she did on her first mission, STS-115, in 2006.

"There are similar items but they are different. Like on the last flight, I flew a swim cap for my son's high school swim team. Well this time, I have got one for his college swim team. And like I flew last time in honor of my father, I have a small Ukrainian flag."

"Kind of have to spread the wealth a little bit to give other people the opportunity to have a flown item in space," she added.

And as the saying goes, sometimes what comes around, goes around.

"I'm bringing up my spoon," STS-126 mission specialist Don Pettit told collectSPACE. "It's a Russian spoon and it has this really long handle."

Pettit was gifted the spoon, which has come to be known as the "Spoon of Exploration", during his 2002 five-month stay aboard the space station. Since then, he's taken it with him on his other NASA expeditions to Antarctica and elsewhere.

"It's designed for on-orbit use. It's really good for digging down into a deep pouch that has food in it so you don't get your fingers all gooey," Pettit described, which should be perfect for the Thanksgiving meal he'll be sharing with his crewmates.

The STS-126 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-126 Official Flight Kit manifest, as provided by NASA. Inventory numbers that are missing indicate items that were removed prior to launch.

No.   Description   Sponsor/Purpose
  1. 625 STS-126 crew patches
  2. 25 Expedition 17 patches
  3. 25 Expedition 18 patches
  Agency Presentation
2.   600 Small United States Flags   Agency Presentation
3.   4 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags   Agency Presentation
4.   4 Sets United Nations Members Flags   Agency Presentation
  1. 20 Small Texas Flags
  2. 5 Small NASA Flags
  3. 5 NASA Patches
  4. 5 Texas Lapel Pins
  5. 1 Bronze NASA Seal Medallion
  6. 1 Silver Shuttle Pendant
  7. 6 Small JSC Medallions
  8. 1 11x13" Mississippi State University Flag
  Agency Presentation
6.   10 Small Flags of the Following States:
  1. Georgia
  2. Florida
  3. Minnesota
  Agency Presentation
7.   5 Small Flags of the Following States:
  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Connecticut
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Illinois
  5. Missouri
  6. Texas
  Agency Presentation
8.   2 Small Flags of the Following U.S. States:
  1. Maine
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Vermont
  4. New Hampshire
  Agency Presentation
9.   Small International Flags:
  1. 2 Scotland
  2. 2 Australia
  3. 2 Poland
  4. 10 Spain
  Agency Presentation
10.   Small Military Flags:
  1. 10 U.S. Air Force
  2. 10 U.S. Army
  3. 10 U.S. Coast Guard
  4. 10 U.S. Marine Corps
  5. 30 U.S. Navy
  Agency Presentation
  1. 10 Small United States Flags
  2. 10 Small Alabama State Flags
  Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation
  1. 10 Small Louisiana State Flags
  2. 10 Small Mississippi State Flags
  3. 5 Small NASA Flags
  4. 5 Small United States Flags
  Stennis Space Center Presentation
  1. 2 Small United States Flags
  2. 2 Small Florida State Flags
  3. 10 Small KSC Coins
  Kennedy Space Center Presentation
14.   140 Silver Snoopy Pins   Space Flight Awareness Presentation
15.   25 EVA Patches   Agency Presentation
  1. 10 STS-126 Crew Patches
  2. 20 Small U.S. flags
  3. 10 DoD Space Test Program Patches
  4. 10 DoD Human Spaceflight Support Office Patches
  5. 6 Space Development & Test Wing Coins
  DoD Presentation
17.   15 STS-126 Crew Patches   United Space Alliance Presentation
  1. 10 Constellation Patches
  2. 5 Lunar Surface Systems Patches
  3. 5 Altair Patches
  Constellation Program Office Presentation
19.   25 MOD patches   Mission Operations Directorate Presentation
20.   25 COD patches   Center Operations Directorate Presentation
21.   100 Small Enamel Ribbon Lapel Pins   Agency Presentation
22.   Miniature Computer Memory Card   Agency Presentation
Items 23 through 78 are manifested at the request of the STS-126 crewmembers.
23.   Launch Patch   Math Science and Technology Community Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
24.   Large Red and White Baseball Jersey   Phillies National League Club, Philadelphia, PA
25.   10"x15" Woven Fabric Net   Pearland Intermediate School, Pearland, TX
26.   Small Navy School T-shirt   Cypress Creek Elementary School, Port Orange, FL
27.   Medium Green School T-Shirt   Creekside Intermediate School, Port Orange, FL
28.   Squadron VF11 Patch   U.S. Air Force Fighter Squadron 11, Virginia Beach, VA
29.   36x50" Navy and Gold Flag   National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
30.   3x5' White, Black and Blue NASCAR Flag   Americrown Service Corporation, Daytona Beach, FL
31.   Black Square Patch   Clear Lake High School, Houston, TX
32.   Lapel Pin   Georgia Tech University, Atlanta, GA
33.   Red, White and Blue Patch   Georgia Civil Air Patrol, Atlanta, GA
34.   Gold and Navy Lapel Pin   Henderson Middle School, Atlanta, GA
35.   Air Force ROTC Medallion   Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
36.   12x19" Green and White Flag   Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta, GA
37.   3x5' White Foundation Flag   Hertz Graduate Fellowship, Livermore, CA
38.   Astronautical Engineering Department Medallion   U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO
39.   Black, Red and Blue Ares Patch   Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
40.   Silver Commemorative Medallion   The Spaatz Association, Washington, DC
41.   Large Navy and White Hockey Jersey   Cohasset High School, Cohasset, MA
42.   Large Navy and Beige Hockey Jersey   U.S. Naval Academy Hockey Team, Annapolis, MD
43.   3x5" Black and Gold Metal Placard   Heritage Park Wahoo Swim Team, Friendswood, TX
44.   2.5x.75" Miniature Pink Ballet Slipper   Bossov Ballet Theater, Pittsville, MN
45.   Gold and Navy USS Nautilus Medallion   Sub Force Museum, Groton, CT
46.   Silver Submarine Warfare Insignia   USS Nautilus, Groton, CT
47.   Bronze Naval Ordnance Test Unit Medallion   Department of the Navy, Annapolis, MD
48.   Gold Deep Sea Diver Medallion   Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, Cape Hatteras, NC
49.   Large White T-shirt with Logo   Farnsworth Aerospace Elementary, St. Paul, MN
50.   Green Enamel Lapel Pin   Plast Ukrainian Youth Org, Minneapolis, MN
51.   Yellow and Maroon Swim Cap   Gannon University Swim Team, Erie, PA
52.   8x10" Wrestling Team Logo Picture   Temecula Valley Wrestling Team, CA
53.   4x6x10.5" Blue and Yellow Flag on Wood Pole   St. Constantine Ukrainian Catholic School, Minneapolis, MN
54.   White and Red Placard with Logo   Belle Vista Middle School, Temecula, CA
55.   White and Yellow Patch   Temecula Valley High School, Temecula, CA
56.   8x12" White and Blue School Pennant   Trinity Valley School, Ft. Worth, TX
57.   Squadron Patch   92th Assault Helicopter Company, Atlanta, GA
58.   Silver Medallion   Army Aviation Association of America, West Port, CT
59.   Large White and Black Baseball Jersey   U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY
60.   Medium White and Red Baseball Jersey   Atlanta Braves, Atlanta, GA
61.   12x18" U.S. Flag   Space and Missile Defense Command, Huntsville, AL
62.   Medium Blue Football Jersey   University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
63.   Gold and Black Medallion   Army Athletic Association, West Point, NY
64.   Small Black T-shirt with Logo   One Organization, New York, NY
65.   22x30" White Flag with Black Lettering   Bartlett Public Library District, Bartlett, IL
66.   Copper Medallion on White Ribbon   Belleville Science Academy, Belleville, IL
67.   Expedition 18 Silver Medallion   National Undersea Research Center, Key Largo, FL
68.   8.5x11" Photograph   Westside Veterinary Hospital, Pearland, TX
69.   White, Red and Green Patch   Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Canyon, TX
70.   White Gold Medallion   Southwestern Illinois College, Belleville, IL
71.   Silver U.S. Air Force Military Astronaut Wings   Agency Presentation
72.   Gold U.S. Navy Military Astronaut Wings   Agency Presentation
73.   Gold U.S. Navy Military Astronaut Wings   Agency Presentation
74.   Silver and Gold U.S. Army Military Astronaut Wings   Agency Presentation
75.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
76.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
77.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
78.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
79.   100 Metal Shuttle Tokens   Space Center Houston Items
80.   14" Conductor's Baton   Agency Presentation
Items 81 through 101 are manifested at the request of the Space Shuttle Program Office and Payload Customers.
81.   965 Small United States Flags   Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation
82.   300 Sheets of SSP Bookmarks   Space Shuttle Program Presentation
83.   25 ULF2 Mission Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
84.   10 Crew Quarters Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
85.   15 Regen ECLS Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
86.   10 Waste and Hygiene Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
87.   10 Galley Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
88.   10 TOCA Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
89.   10 ARED Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
90.   10 REFH Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
91.   10 GLACIER Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
92.   10 GLACIER Flags   ISS ULF2 Presentation
93.   10 FCF Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
94.   10 MSG Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
95.   10 EXPRESS Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
96.   10 Utilization Office Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
97.   10 CIR Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
98.   20 MPLM Sustaining Engineering Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
99.   10 Italian Space Agency ASI Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
100.   10 IJ Mission Patches   ISS ULF2 Presentation
101.   10 STP Patches   ISS ULF2/DoD Presentation

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