Talk with astronaut Steve Swanson packs Library Hall

Teresa Ristow
Steamboat Springs astronaut Steve Swanson speaks to a packed house Sunday evening at the Bud Werner Memorial Library. Swanson, who spent 169 days in space on Expedition 40, presented some of his memorable projects while on duty and fielded questions from the audience.
Ben Ingersoll

— Steamboat Springs astronaut Steve Swanson drew a standing room only crowd to Bud Werner Memorial Library on Sunday night for a talk about his most recent trip to space.

Swanson returned to Earth in a space capsule in early September after spending 5 1/2 months orbiting Earth in the International Space Station.

The 1979 Steamboat Springs High School graduate shared a video slideshow of some of his most memorable moments in space and then fielded questions from an audience of eager Swanson supporters.

The footage included views of Earth from the space station, with shots of lightning storms, aurora light displays and rapid sunrises and sunsets.

“Looking out the window was one of our favorite pastimes,” Swanson said. “The way lightning would travel through the actual storm was mesmerizing.”

Swanson traveled almost 72 million miles in orbit, circling the Earth about every 90 minutes, he said.

While in orbit, Swanson and fellow crew members Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, from Russia, performed numerous physical tests on themselves as part of the mission.

Swanson used an ultrasound device to measure atrophy in his legs, ran tests on his skin to determine whether space has an effect on your skin’s aging and performed vision tests.

“A lot of the science we did was on ourselves,” Swanson said.

The Expedition 40 commander shared a photo of himself in space wearing a Steamboat Sailors T-shirt, which drew a round of applause from attendees.

When asked about his desire to become an astronaut, Swanson said the job provides mental and physical stimulation while also offering an adventure.

He said it takes perseverance and persistence to be selected for competitive missions like the one he recently returned from.

He said he worked to strengthen his resume in order to be selected.

“The basic requirements are not that difficult, but it’s so competitive,” Swanson said.

Among the other anecdotes Swanson shared were his record of 14 flips through the station without hitting a wall, that the astronauts didn’t drink any Tang and that he spent a lot of time performing maintenance on the 50-year-old Russian toilet aboard the station.

“About 50 percent of the time there we were performing maintenance,” Swanson said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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