Third time's a charm?

Swanson awaits another launch date for his first space mission

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Steamboat Springs -- Steamboat Springs High School graduate Steve Swanson is patiently waiting for his first space mission aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.

"We still have no idea when that will be," Swanson said. "When the countdown goes past 30 seconds and hits zero, I'll believe we're going."

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The launch date has been postponed twice within the past year. The first delay was due to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's budget cuts and to allow time to evaluating complications that arose during the Columbia mission in July 2006.

The recent delay resulted from a hailstorm that damaged the space shuttle.

"We are waiting for the engineers to tell us they can make all the repairs in time for our May window and make sure everything is certified," Swanson said. "If that doesn't work, we will launch in the middle of June."

The extra time has given Swanson and the other five members of his crew more time to train.

"We spend long hours in the training, and it is different every day what you do," he said. "Each one, by themselves, is not a challenge. But there are so many of them, and to keep everything in your head at one time is."

Swanson's crew will deliver a starboard truss segment and its associated energy systems to the International Space Station, which orbits 300 miles from the Earth. The 11-day trip will benefit future missions to the space station, which is projected to be complete in 2010.

"After us, they will add on the European and Japanese laboratory," Swanson said. "And for both of those, they need the power we are going to bring."

Swanson also will be bringing a Lego astronaut into space with him.

"My 11-year-old son likes Legos very much and gave me the astronaut to take with me," he said.

Swanson will have limited contact with his family while he is in space.

"One time for sure we'll have a video conference," he said. "It's a 15-minute deal, and if I'm lucky, I'll have the chance to use the Internet phone from the space station, and I can do e-mail."

With the date of his space mission rapidly approaching, there are three things Swanson is looking forward to.

"The space walks are going to be fantastic, the launch is going to be wonderful and living in a place with no gravity will be great," he said. "Though the space suit (for the space walks) weighs between 250 to 300 pounds. It's something you wouldn't want to walk in on the ground."

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