- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It is rough to be away from family for the holidays, but what if you are the only American in a tin can 220 miles above Earth? That is the situation for American astronaut William S. McArthur aboard the International Space Station.

Several U.S. space missions have overlapped with Thanksgiving, and NASA provides each crew member with a turkey dinner. It’s nothing fancy: a $2.50 Dinty Moore non-refrigerated precooked meal or a smoked-turkey ready-made meal. Cmdr. McArthur chose the latter.

“We don’t have so many celebrations for that day in Russia,” said cosmonaut Valery Tokarev, Cmdr. McArthur’s counterpart. “But we also like to get together for celebrations with the whole family. I will celebrate this day with Bill McArthur, and we are like brothers.”

Politics influence menu selections in space. The crew members can select the food items they enjoy but are required to choose half of their items from the American menus and half from the Russian options.

The cultures often clash.

For example, Russians use lard instead of whipped cream to decorate desserts, eat raw garlic and onion, and have juice drinks that are thicker than milkshakes. The Russians were surprised at the concept of sandwiches and putting ice into drinks.

Earlier this week, Cmdr. McArthur showed off the food items he and Col. Tokarev had selected for Thanksgiving.

“I’m going to try to prepare what for the McArthur family is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” Cmdr. McArthur said.

The American items include lemonade, green beans, asparagus, smoked turkey, peaches, Southwestern corn and cranberry-apple dessert. The Russian items include tea, apple-black currant juice, mashed potatoes with onions and bread.

Cmdr. McArthur said the freeze-dried green beans felt a bit like styrofoam before water was added to rehydrate them.

About the miniature loaves of Russian bread, he said: “I sometimes call this ‘Barbie bread.’ What it contains is several tiny little loaves [the right size for a Barbie doll]. Each loaf is bite-size, and Valery and I are quite fond of these.”

Although they make do with the food in space, the crew members miss their family the most during the holidays.

“This time of year, that’s the time you most want to be with your family — my wife, two daughters and son-in-law,” Cmdr. McArthur said.

He and Col. Tokarev are scheduled to return to Earth in April.

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