You may not recognize the name Christer Fuglesang, but he's had a lasting impact on Sweden – and dare we say the world? He was the first – and so far only – Swedish citizen in space, and he's still an extraordinary physicist and winner of multiple NASA medals.
December 10th marks ten years since Fuglesang’s adventure into space – but what has happened since then? A decade later, how has Fuglesang’s legacy impacted Sweden and the space programme in general? And how is he celebrating?
You may not be an astronaut, but you can still get a peek at space and hear all about it from Christer Fuglesang himself! The Swedish astronaut will be at the Swedish Museum of Natural History on Saturday, December 10th, to lecture after a special viewing of the film “A Beautiful Planet”.
When Fuglesang isn’t in space – which, let’s admit it, he usually isn’t – he keeps busy in Stockholm at the Royal Institute of Technology. In fact, he’s the Director of the KTH Space Center and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He conducts research and also gives lectures at the school – how many students can say their teacher is a real astronaut?
But Chriser Fuglesang isn't one to just sit around and read and talk about space. He's always doing his best to take space exploration and technology to the next level, through other people's projects as well. In fact, Fuglesang is one of the investors in ÅAC Microtec, a company which is developing a new satellite platform called SIRIUS. The new satellites – up in space, of course – will make communication a lot better down here on earth.
So far Christer Fuglesang is the only Swedish citizen who has been to space. But 39-year-old Jessica Meir is hoping to change that.
“I think I will receive a mission within one to three years,” says the NASA astronaut with both Swedish and American citizenship. First she will most likely end up at the International Space Station – but she dreams of going to the moon.
“I think that we should, and need to, go back to the moon before we start thinking about Mars,” she says. “So I hope to be the first woman, and the first Swedish-American woman, on the moon. I guess we'll see!”
But maybe Mars isn't that far away. Just this week the Swedish Liberal Party suggested that Sweden should focus more on space exploration, and get a Swede on Mars in the 2030s. And what does Christer Fuglesang think?
“It's totally realistic,” he states.
The technology is basically in place; that's not the problem. But Fuglesang says that Sweden has to start contributing more to the European Space Agency if it wants to prioritize its own citizens reaching space, since such a mission would most likely be an international collaboration.
“Sweden needs to increase its participation in ESA,” he says.
…but for now, Fuglesang and Meir will just have to celebrate what they’ve already accomplished. The two Swedes will be celebrating 10 years since the first Swede entered space with the American Club in Stockholm on December 9th. Guests will get to mingle and ask questions about their unique experiences.