Astronaut Steve Swanson chats with CSU from the International Space Station

Astronaut Steve Swanson, STS-119 mission speci...
Astronaut Steve Swanson, STS-119 mission specialist, attired in his Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit, is pictured in the Quest Airlock of the International Space Station as the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) draws to a close. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traveling at 70,500 mph in space, Astronaut Steve Swanson does a cartwheel for the camera.

“Astronaut tricks, we all got them,” Swanson said.

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In the airlock of the International Space Station, a CSU banner sits above Swanson and a bobble-head CAM The Ram floats next to him.

Down on earth, approximately 230 miles away, spectators at CSU watch Swanson on a large projection screen.

The live chat held Tuesday afternoon was a chance for community members to ask questions to Swanson who is stationed at the International Space Station for six months.

Swanson, a Colorado native, has a strong connection to Fort Collins. His son Quin is attending CSU in the fall as an engineering major.

“I’m happy about it. It’s a good place. I have a lot of friends who had gone to CSU and still have friends who live in the Fort Collins area,” Swanson said.

His current position at the space station is flight engineer. This trip is Swanson’s third voyage. In 2007 and 2009, he helped in the construction of the space station.

During the chat Tuesday, audience members wrote down questions that were relayed by senior engineering major Ben Melia. Melia was the first CSU student to intern with NASA and worked closely on the launch of various rockets.

“We are going to be talking to a really really smart guy, but he is a real down to earth guy, too,” Melia said introducing Swanson.

The chat began with technical difficulties, as they tried to connect with the space station, but soon after Swanson floated into the screen, mic in hand.

Many members of the audience asked Swanson about the day-to-day chores of astronauts.

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Typically Swanson said they start the day at about 6:00 a.m. (GMT). In the morning the crew does all the daily things any regular person would do: shave, brush their teeth etc. According to Swanson, the main difference is that they do these things without gravity.

In space, Swanson says there are only sponge baths — no showers. All the water on board the space station is recycled and reused daily.

“It’s just like camping, really,” Swanson said.

The rest of the day revolves around the earth and a work schedule that mission control provides. Swanson said they normally keep the crew busy with scheduled tasks throughout the day. On April 23, Swanson was a part of a space walk to fix a malfunctioning part outside.

According to Swanson, space walks don’t occur often and can take days to prepare because of all the technical aspects of getting the spacesuits ready. The latest space walk lasted a fairly short time — just over an hour as the crew replaced a faulty computer.

“There are moments that can get stressful when things fail,” Swanson said. “But, overall the day is not that stressful.”

Swanson said the cupola, a part of the station with several open windows, is his favorite place to sit when he has off time. During a single day, the space station revolves around the earth every 90 minutes.

From that vantage point Swanson said you can watch the sun rise and set.

“You can just sit at that thing and look at earth for hours,” Swanson said. “It’s beautiful, it’s wonderful, you see all sorts of things.”

On one window, Swanson taped the mini CAM The Ram bobble-head. From up above, CAM sees 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day.

Councilmen Wade Troxell, who helped set up the chat, said that getting CAM, a CSU banner and CSU shirt up to the station was a challenge, but it was worth it.

“CAM’s out of this world now,” Troxell said.

Collegian City Editor Skyler Leonard can be reached at news@collegian.com.