Sweden’s First Astronaut Ready to Go
After 14 years of waiting, Sweden’s first astronaut is due to go into space earlier than scheduled.
The Discovery space shuttle mission carrying Sweden’s Christer Fuglesang into space has been moved up a week, and is now scheduled for launch on December 7th. The unusual move is to make it possible for NASA’s ground personnel to get some time off at Christmas when the mission to the International Space Station is over.
Fuglesang was picked as a European Space Agency astronaut in 1992. He trained first with the Russians to take part in joint Russian-ESA missions to the Mir space station. Fuglesang was a back-up member of a mission to Mir in 1995, then switched to the American astronaut program in 1996, and became the first European astronaut with both Russian and American training.
He has been scheduled to take part in the space shuttle STS-116 mission for years, but that mission was delayed, along with the rest of the shuttle program, by the Columbia disaster in 2003.
Discovery will be carrying important equipment to the International Space Station. It’s been called the Celsius Mission, after the 18th century Swedish scientist, who built this country’s first observatory. Christer Fuglesang will be taking part in two space walks, each devoted to rewiring half of the station
In his newsletter Christer Fuglesang compares the final weeks before launch as the last kilometer of a long marathon race. The crew is now training 10 to 12 hours a day. Since Saturday they’ve been able to train with the actual Discovery shuttle in Florida, instead of with simulators.