Friends, family set to watch Steamboat astronaut’s 3rd space launch | SteamboatToday.com

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Friends, family set to watch Steamboat astronaut’s 3rd space launch

— It's not every day friends and Steamboat Springs residents Mike Lane and Rob Powers get to see their buddy launch into space, so the two are making Steve Swanson's latest journey outside Earth’s atmosphere a special occasion.

Swanson is a 1979 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School and a longtime NASA astronaut, and he will embark on a mission to space until September. Launch is scheduled for Tuesday at 3:17 p.m. MDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Swanson already has made two trips to space, and this time around, Lane and Powers are heading to the Peterson-Schriever Air Force Base and Air Force Command outside Colorado Springs for a live watch party to see their longtime friend make his third trek away from Earth.

"I couldn't think of a better way to watch the launch than with the servicemen and women who do this every day," Lane said about the Peterson-Schriever base, which performs round-the-clock coverage of things surrounding Earth. "It's a real honor for me to share it with them. It's even better that we know someone going up."

Swanson, a flight engineer, will launch with two Russian crewmates, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. The three-person crew is the second half of the Expedition 39 crew and will board the Soyuz TMA-12M.

The first half of the crew took the Soyuz TMA-11M up Nov. 6 and will land in May.

Lane, Powers and fellow friend Donna Mae Hoots said they keep in contact with Swanson regularly through email and Facebook, but the astronaut has been especially busy in the latter stages of preparation for Expedition 39.

"He has a Facebook page that he started for friends and family, so we've been following him along on that," Hoots said. "I was just looking at it recently, and his rocket is a lot different than the shuttles he's gone up in before. He had pictures of it actually on the launch pad, and he's getting pretty excited.”

Hoots — who graduated from high school in Swanson's 1979 class — said she plans to gather with other friends of Swanson's in Steamboat to watch the live launch through a NASA television feed at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv.

The International Space Station's Instagram account, @iss, also includes a small stock of images and videos from Swanson's and the crew's preparations for Expedition 39.

Lane said most of Swanson's immediate family and even a cohort of friends are overseas to watch his launch, including his father-in-law, Chan Young, who currently lives in Steamboat, and Swanson’s wife, Mary.

"Tuesday will be a very special day for Steve and his family, as well as for all of us who share his connection to Steamboat," Lane said in an email. "Even though this is his adventure, it feels like he is taking a bit of all of us along for the ride."

During the six months Swanson and company are in space, they will work on myriad missions. The crew will test high-definition camera equipment that will help provide new live video of Earth for engineers' future use.

They also will use a vegetable production system to help grow their own salad-type crops in space, a measure that could be used for potential longer-duration missions. Biology and biotechnology experiments are another mission highlight, as the crew will study and record human cell multiplication during spaceflight.

The crew learned about the mission in January 2013 and has been in full training since.

"I know all the hard work he's put into this to train and the effort," Lane said. "It's cool to see when a group comes together what they can accomplish."

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll