Click photo to enlarge
In this frame grab taken from enhanced video made by NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, comet ISON, left, approaches the sun on Nov. 25, 2013. Comet Encke is shown just below ISON, The sun is to the right, just outside the frame. ISON, which was discovered a year ago, is making its first spin around the sun and will come the closest to the super-hot solar surface on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, at 1:37 p.m. EST.
WASHINGTON—Space will serve up a banquet of activities on Thanksgiving, featuring a comet kissing the sun, a zero-gravity freeze-dried feast in orbit and a rocket launch attempt:

FIRST COURSE:

Comet ISON, which was discovered a year ago, is making its first spin around the sun and will come the closest to the super-hot solar surface at 1:37 p.m. EST. It may take a few hours before astronomers know if the comet survived its brush with the sun. If it survives, and maybe even if it doesn't, people in the Northern Hemisphere will have a good chance of seeing the comet—or its remains—in the first two weeks of December just before sunrise and after sunset. It won't be visible with the naked eye on Thursday, but NASA has a fleet of telescopes trained on ISON (EYE'-sahn).

SECOND COURSE:

For the six people on board the International Space Station—including American astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio—it's time for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. But don't expect them to be carving a succulent bird. In a video from space, the two astronauts showed off their menu, all in small sealed packets: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and what Hopkins called his favorite dehydrated green bean casserole. It comes with a view from space that is juicier than any turkey on Earth. "Though we miss our families, it's great to be in space," Hopkins said from 260 miles above Earth in a taped message.


Advertisement

DESSERT:

Residents of Florida's Space Coast may get to see a rocket thunder through the sky around dinner time if all goes well. Private firm SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., will try again to launch its Falcon-9 rocket between 5:38 p.m. and 6:44 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Station. The large rocket didn't launch in a first attempt Monday because of a technical glitch. The rocket is carrying a 7,055-pound telecommunications satellite for a Luxembourg firm. This is part of a growing trend of newer rocket firms—SpaceX is headed by PayPal founder Elon Musk—launching more and signing up non-government customers, said Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who catalogues launches worldwide. Thanksgiving and November are often a quiet time for space, but not this year, he said. It will be the first Cape Canaveral launch attempt on Thanksgiving since 1959—that one failed when the rocket exploded seconds after liftoff, according to McDowell.

———

Online:

NASA's Comet ISON page: http://www.nasa.gov/ison

Astronauts' Thanksgiving message: http://bit.ly/187wpq5

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com