A ride of emotions

Mother-in-law returns from watching former Steamboat resident enter space

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The emotions of seeing her son-in-law launch into space haven't worn off on Chris Young.

Young, who made the trip to see Steamboat's Steve Swanson go on his first mission into space last week, said the experience has been surreal.

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"The feeling was joy and apprehension," Young said. "I had every emotion working I can think of except anger. The thought that went by was, 'goodbye Steve.' It was the thought of him being a tiny human being on this huge rocket. But everything went well, and that's good news."

The STS-177 crew will deliver a starboard truss segment and its associated energy systems to the International Space Station, which orbits 300 miles above the Earth. Swanson -- a 1979 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School -- is scheduled to assemble new parts on the space station and operate shuttle and station arms for assembly.

Young arrived in Florida for the launch last Wednesday. On Thursday, she said, along with family and friends of the astronauts, they went to NASA, boarded buses and went to the launch site.

The buses ended up in a field near the launch site across a road from the seven members of the STS-117 team.

"We got to yell back-and-forth and take a bunch of photographs," Young said.

The rest of the day, Young said, friends and family toured NASA before returning to their hotels.

After "trying to get some sleep," Thursday night, Young said they prepared for the launch Friday.

After a brunch, Young boarded a bus toward the Saturn Building and prepared for the takeoff.

The countdown was delayed several times because all four emergency landing areas in Europe had bad weather.

But once one of the emergency areas cleared up and the national anthem had been played, the final countdown began.

"Everything was delayed by smoke," said Young, who was about four miles from the launch pad. "Then there was fire, and you see the blast of flames. The ship hovered then started up."

Young watched NASA Television for much of the next couple of days. Her daughter, Mary (Swanson's wife), also e-mailed Swanson in space.

"He reported he was having fun," Young said.

Now, Young will be glued to her computer preparing to watch Swanson partake in his first spacewalk today at noon.

She said she hopes to fly back to Florida later this month when the shuttle is scheduled for landing June 21.

Either way, the experience was something she'll never forget.

"I just feel extremely fortunate to have a son-in-law doing this," she said. "To go and watch it as a support with my family was great, and I'm extremely happy and proud for my daughter."

For updates on Swanson or video of him in space visit www.nasa.gov.

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