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Why US astronauts are celebrating Thanksgiving early

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Precooked irradiated smoked turkey stands in for a hot turkey fresh out of the oven. Green beans with mushrooms, candied yams, turkey stuffing, and some sort of fruit cobbler dessert have also been popular space Thanksgiving dishes in the past. [Best Space Food of All Time]

NASA also has a recipe for space cornbread dressing available for the public to try out.

Kelly will be saying farewell to American crewmates Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker, as well as cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, when they depart the space station late Thursday on a Russian Soyuz capsule and land on the steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, where the local time will actually be Friday morning. The trio has been living on the space station since mid-June.

"I'm just thankful to be here and be part of this crew," Wheelock said. "It's been a tremendous experience for us."

It's somewhat unusual for a space station crew to celebrate a U.S. holiday early, but Kelly asked for some time in the schedule because the astronauts and cosmonauts will put in a full day's work Thursday when most Americans are sitting down to a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

"It's not the normal approach," NASA spokesperson Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters said. "I think they're doing it in this case to accommodate the Soyuz landing."

Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin plan to undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the space station at 8:22 p.m. EST (0122 GMT) Thursday – Thanksgiving night in the United States – ahead of a planned 11:46 p.m. EST (0446 Nov. 25 GMT) landing in Kazakhstan.

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