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Fuglesang heads for second space adventure

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Fuglesang heads for second space adventure
08:27 CEST+02:00
Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang has begun preparations in Houston, Texas for his second trip into space.

After three days quarantine in Houston, beginning on Monday, Fuglesang will travel to Florida to join the waiting spaceship Discovery.

Fuglesang's return to space will then begin on August 24th when the Discovery blasts off on its journey from the Kennedy Space Center.

The Swede is part of a seven astronaut team within the STS-128 mission. All will now be sealed off from the outside world for their quarantine period.

The next time the astronauts will be seen will be after reaching their destination in space.

"To sit here means that the launch is getting close," said commander Rick Sturckow at a press conference on Thursday.

Christer Fuglesang will however get the chance to meet his family before climbing on board the Discovery. Although second time around perhaps not all will be in attendance.

"It is possible that my daughter will not be able to come to the launch, she is enrolling at KTH (the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm)," Fuglesang said in a televised video conference on Thursday evening.

But despite the risks associated with space travel, the Swede is not nervous.

"It is a risky mission. But for me it is more abstract, numbers on a page. I am so busy concentrating on the mission that I haven't thought about it," he says.

His role in the mission is two-fold. In part he is responsible for the movement of all the material that will be transferred to the International Space Station (ISS) - among other things scientific equipment and necessities.

Secondly Fuglesang will undertake two space walks, the first of which will involve the lifting of an 800 kilogramme ammonia tank - the heaviest item ever handled by a human in space.

"It is difficult to control the direction, despite the weightlessness of space," he said.

The Swede will also take part in a series of scientific experiments. Nicole Stott, who will replace Tim Kopra on the ISS, will measure changes in the length of Fuglesang's spine. His balance will also be monitored.

"Immediately after the journey I will be put in a rotating chair to check my balance," Christer Fuglesang confirmed.

Fuglesang was in no doubt however as to the toughest challenge faced by astronauts in space.

"It is undoubtedly to go to the toilet, which I had big problems with last time," he said, laughing.

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