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Why US astronauts are celebrating Thanksgiving early

Three American astronauts will host a Thanksgiving dinner for their three Russian crew mates aboard the International Space Station on Nov. 24 because half of the crew returns to Earth Thursday.

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Americans on Earth are excited about the holiday of Thanksgiving. Astronauts in space are too, but they'll hold the famous turkey day early because of some holiday travel – a Thursday trip back to Earth.

The station's three American astronauts will host a space Thanksgiving for their three Russian crewmates today (Nov. 24) – a day earlier than the actual holiday – to give them one last big meal together before half of the crew returns to Earth Thursday night.

The U.S.-Russian crew will gather together in the stations' aptly named Unity module for their Thanksgiving in space. The idea for the early celebration came from NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will take command of the station tomorrow, NASA officials told SPACE.com.

IN PICTURES: Holidays in Space

"I'd like to wish everyone a very happy, happy Thanksgiving," Kelly said in a holiday video message, adding that he and his crewmates were thankful to be on the station. "I'm thankful and I feel privileged that I was born and grew up in a country that could be a major contributor to something as magnificent as the International Space Station."

When it comes to a space Thanksgiving meal, astronauts have traditionally feasted on traditional holiday fare ... but with a NASA twist.

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