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What it's like spending Thanksgiving in space

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

This Thanksgiving, we're thinking about some of the people farthest away from us. Think really far - like, out of this world.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Five, four, stage engine start, three, two, one, boosters and ignition. And lift off of Artemis 1. We rise together back to the moon and beyond.

MARTÍNEZ: That was NASA's Artemis 1 rocket taking flight last week. Launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson spoke to her team at the Kennedy Space Center just after liftoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHARLIE BLACKWELL-THOMPSON: You were part of a first - doesn't come along very often - once in a career, maybe. But we are all part of something incredibly special - the first launch of Artemis.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTÍNEZ: Right now, there are no astronauts in the capsule, just a few mannequins. But the Artemis mission hopes to put the first woman and first person of color on the moon by 2025.

We heard from one of the astronauts on the Artemis team last week, Christina Koch.

CHRISTINA KOCH: We're going to be answering the biggest philosophical questions of our time, if we can get to Mars, talking about whether or not we're alone in the universe, putting perspective on our place in the universe. And the fact that we are willing to devote ourselves to answering those questions collectively is the important part about this Artemis mission.

MARTÍNEZ: Sure, those kinds of deep questions might be important to humankind.

We here at MORNING EDITION have other priorities, and we're going to play an extra piece of that interview now to get into the Thanksgiving spirit. Remember, there are a few Americans spending their holiday on the International Space Station.

Christina Koch holds the record for the single longest spaceflight by a woman. So before my co-host, Leila Fadel, could let her go, she just had to ask about Turkey.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Did you spend Thanksgiving in space?

KOCH: I did. It's fun to think that actually almost every holiday that was, I was in space, and I got to experience in space. And I think the important part about that for me is that community is what you make it.

And for me, being able to celebrate all those holidays with my crewmates, being able to share the excitement, even with the ground teams through video, we used to do performances for them of holiday music, and just taking our traditions, applying them in a new place really brings out the humanity in all that we do.

Even though there are such a huge technical innovation and amazing challenges we overcome to do human spaceflight, at the core of it all is that human. And that's really what the holidays in space brought back to me.

FADEL: But what's it like in space? I mean, I'm assuming you can't fry a turkey or, like, spend your day roasting. I don't know.

KOCH: It's a great point. So I actually really enjoyed cooking in space in the limited ways that we can. You're exactly right. Typically, everything we do is either an MRE style or it's a rehydrated in a little plastic package. But in the limited ways that we can prepare food, we definitely did that because of the community aspect, you know, that it kind of brings.

So we have a food warmer, which is - doesn't actually cook like an oven might. But if you stick food in there for long enough, you can do things like roast onions, roast garlic. We did get some of those fresh supplies up every now and again on a cargo supply vehicle, so we would save them for the holidays. And I definitely roasted onions, garlic and turkey for my crewmates.

(SOUNDBITE OF MECO'S "STAR WARS THEME/CANTINA BAND")

MARTÍNEZ: That was astronaut Christina Koch speaking with my co-host, Leila Fadel, about what's on the Thanksgiving table in space. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.