Thanksgiving in space

The American astronauts onboard the International Space Station are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, and they’ve recorded a video message giving us a look at what their observations will entail. Check it out here, or watch below:

According to NASA, Thanksgiving was first celebrated in space aboard Skylab, the first American space station, in 1973. Since then, Thanksgiving has also been celebrated on space shuttles and the defunct Russian space station Mir.

Worried about getting into political arguments over Thanksgiving dinner? Consider talking about space instead! The Planetary Society last year compiled a helpful list of space-related conversation starters, covering topics such as:

  • How to stop an asteroid headed for earth
  • Liquid water elsewhere in our solar system
  • Space tourism
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The Cranberry Crisis of Thanksgiving 1959

While cranberries have been cultivated and consumed by Native Americans since pre-Columbian times – and have long been associated with Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States – the fruit’s position on our harvest table has not always been so secure.

Near the end of the second Eisenhower administration, fears of widespread chemical contamination prompted the Great Cranberry Scare of 1959. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Arthur S. Flemming announced that

The Food and Drug Administration today urged that no further sales be made of cranberries and cranberry products produced in Washington and Oregon in 1958 and 1959 because of their possible contamination by a chemical weed killer, aminotriazole, which causes cancer in the thyroids of rats when it is contained in their diet, until the cranberry industry has submitted a workable plan to separate the contaminated berries from those that are not contaminated.1

American consumers panicked: a “fifty-million-dollar-a-year business collapsed overnight [and]┬ásales of fresh cranberries […] dropped sixty-three per cent from the year before.” Fearful of poisoning, cranberries vanished from Thanksgiving tables that year; even the Eisenhowers declined to served them at the White House dinner.2

Afterward, two things became clear. First, that the contamination was not widespread, and that scientists had simply erred on the side of caution since there was no way for consumers to determine on short notice where their cranberries had come from. Second, the cranberry industry concluded that it could not depend on Thanksgiving sales alone – prompting the introduction and marketing of cranberry juices that could be sold year-round.3

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