Spaceflight Insider

Expedition 53 celebrates Thanksgiving on ISS

On Nov. 23, 2017, astronauts aboard the International Space Station celebrated the 18th Thanksgiving aboard the orbiting outpost. Photo Credit: NASA

On Nov. 23, 2017, astronauts aboard the International Space Station celebrated the 18th Thanksgiving aboard the orbiting outpost. Photo Credit: NASA

Astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station have now celebrated 18 Thanksgivings in orbit since 2000. This year, it was Expedition 53’s turn to share their thoughts and memories of the holiday.

ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba are the three American crew members aboard the outpost. While European Space Agency and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryazansky and Alexander Misurkin don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in their home countries, the six do come together to eat a traditional meal together.

“We will organize a dinner with all the other people,” said Nespoli in a NASA video with the other U.S. orbital segment astronauts. “We’ll celebrate the festivity on board while we will talk over family and everything.”

Bresnik added that the full crew also celebrate Russian holidays throughout the year.

“We learn their traditions and customs so certainly we’ll be welcoming them and be thankful for their presence here and their contribution here on the ISS,” Bresnik said of the two Russian crew members aboard the outpost.

A typical Thanksgiving meal on the space station usually includes items such as turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms, candied yams, cornbread dressing and a desert. However, these must be prepared on Earth and either freeze-dried or thermostabilized before being shipped to the station well in advance of the holiday.

The first Thanksgiving celebrated in space occurred during the 1973 Skylab 4 mission when astronauts Gerald Carr, William Pogue and Edward Gibson spent two months in orbit aboard the first U.S. space station. According to NASA, over the years various U.S. crews would spend the holiday in orbit aboard Space Shuttle Columbia and the Russian Mir space station.

On Nov. 23, 2000, members of the three-person Expedition 1 crew – Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev and NASA astronaut William Shepherd – celebrated the first Thanksgiving on the ISS.

Video courtesy of NASA



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor. @TheSpaceWriter

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