ISS Expedition 39 is scheduled to launch to the space station from Kazakhstan on March 25. The crew consists of NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency. All have been preparing for the mission at the Johnson Space Center here in Houston.
Swanson says there’s still a lot of work to do before the launch on board the Soyuz rocket.
“For me, I have a little more than a week of training left here in the United States. And then I’m going to go to Germany for a week, come back for another week of training here. Then I’m going to go to Russia for the last six weeks. And when I go to Russia, I’m going to meet up with these guys and we’re going to start our last set of sims for the preparatory last phase of the training when we have the exams in Russia. And then we get a week off and then down to Baikonur for two weeks and then the launch.”
The three will join Richard Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata and Mikhail Tyurin on the ISS and replace three astronauts, who will be returning to Earth. Swanson says they will be working on more than 170 different scientific experiments while they’re in space.
“What I like, because I did some physics back in school, and I like the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The whole idea to me is very fascinating. The idea that we’re trying to find, you know, is there any matter, is there dark matter out there, dark energy? And how did the universe actually begin? That kind of basic physics questions are quite intriguing to me and I think being able to find that out is going to be fantastic.”
Swanson, who’s a flight engineer, will be the commander of Expedition 40 when it begins in May. He was asked how he prepared for that role.
“It’s not something you do, I think, just right at one moment. You’ve been doing it for most of your life. All the things you’ve done in your life help you prepare for something like this. As for NASA, I’ve had different jobs with different responsibilities that helped me out. But most of all it’s just learning from other people how they do it, talking to them and just going through all the experiences we’ve had, I think, got me in that job.”
Questions during the Q&A session were not only asked by journalists, but also by boys and girls from the Houston Track club. The kids came well prepared and wanted to know what it’s like on the Moon, how astronauts stay fit in space or how long it takes their bodies to recuperate after a mission.
One of them wanted to know this:
“Hello, my name is Cameron and I want to be an astronaut, so what training do you need to become an astronaut?”
“Well, I guess one of the first things is schooling. Do well in school. Work on a science or math degree, something in that area. And at the same time I like to consider being well-rounded, like, do a sport like what you’re doing. Do something like that, again, to keep yourself well-rounded in everything you do, because we do want to be physically fit also to be an astronaut.”
Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will stay on the ISS for six months and return to Earth in September.