Countdown begins for space Swede

With two months to go before he is hurled into space, Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang has been told to get his will in order.

“It isn’t so simple to sort out your will here in the USA and it is a requirement that we must do so after the Columbia accident,” wrote Fuglesang in his latest newsletter from the training centre in Houston.

In February 2003 the space shuttle Columia broke up on re-entry, exploding just before landing and killing all seven crew.

The accident threatened the whole space programme and Nasa was forced to go to extreme lengths to improve the safety of the craft. Fuglesang’s original mission, planned for July 2003, was postponed indefinitely.

Soon the waiting will be over. December 7th is the new launch date for the Discovery space shuttle – and the first time a Swede will go into space.

“It feels as if weäre already in the final sprint! Like the last kilometre in a marathon,” wrote Fuglesang – who has run the Stockholm marathon many times.

On November 30th the quarantine period begins and the seven astronauts will be moved into their crew quarters. Fuglesang’s main job as ‘mission specialist’ will take place on the seventh flight day with a space walk outside the International Space Station (ISS). One of Discovery’s tasks is to fix the electricity system on the ISS.

Last week Fuglesang tested the special sunglasses which will be part of his space suit.

He has also been sorting out the items he will be able to take with him, in both an official pack and a personal pack.

“In the latter I can take a few small things from family and close friends,” he said.

The official items, such as flags and pins, usually relate to the organisations which the astronaut is linked to. Fuglesang will be taking with him the emblem of the physics department of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH).