Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crew to enjoy all-American meal, off-duty time

After a busy morning transferring cargo from the "moving van" module they hauled up to the International Space Station, four Atlantis astronauts are taking a break on Bastille Day for an "All-American Meal."

Mission specialist Sandy Magnus conceived of the meal, which will be shared with the station's six Expedition 28 crew members, when the mission was scheduled to be in orbit on July 4. The final shuttle mission launched July 8 and docked at the station two days later. 

The meal on Atlantis' middeck (left) will begin with crackers, brie cheese and sausage. For entrees, the Atlantis crew will enjoy grilled chicken while the station crew will have barbecue beef brisket. Side dishes for both include Southwestern corn and baked beans.

For desert: off-the-shelf apple pie.

The dishes are among 180 items now on the U.S. menu prepared and packaged to endure a long shelf life. Crews can reheat them or add water as necessary.

Johnson Space Center food scientists say the breadth of their offerings and the psychological importance of food to crews has grown as NASA's emphasis has shifted to long-duration spaceflight.

Check out NASA's "formulations," or recipes, for the All-American Meals here. NASA has invited the public to cook the same items today to share the meal virtually with the final shuttle crew.

One week from the planned 6:58 a.m. final landing of a shuttle at Kennedy Space Center, the Atlantis crew is more than halfway done with its primary mission of transferring cargo that will keep the station stocked through next year.

Crew members will participate in a round of media interviews at 9:19 a.m. Eastern, then have some off-duty time to relax, look out the windows or make family calls.

"This is one of the first days we’ve been able to take a deep breath and appreciate what we’re doing up here," Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson said in an interview earlier this morning. "We’ve been really busy for the first five, six days or so."

The crew was awakened this morning by the R.E.M. song "Man on the Moon" and a special message from the band's Michael Stipe.

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