Published: March 12, 2009

Note to Readers: The launch of the space shuttle Discovery carrying NASA crew member and CU-Boulder alumnus Steve Swanson, which was originally scheduled for launch Feb. 12 but was delayed by mechanical problems, is now slated for launch on March 15.

Making his second flight as an astronaut, University of Colorado at Boulder alumnus Steve Swanson will be the lead spacewalker aboard the International Space Station after NASA's space shuttle Discovery blasts off from Cape Kennedy, Fla., on March 15.

The 14-day Discovery mission, which will include delivery of a 35-foot-long truss and the final set of solar arrays for the station, will feature four spacewalks by teams on the seven-person Discover crew. The truss and solar arrays will provide additional electricity and allow the space station to support an expanded crew of six astronauts.

Swanson, who earned a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from CU-Boulder in 1983, flew on the space shuttle Atlantis to the space station in June 2007 on a mission to deliver a $372 million solar-powered module to the orbiting facility. The new truss and panels to be delivered in February -- which will reach nearly the length of a football field once they are assembled -- are the final pieces of the outpost's power grid.

Launch is scheduled for 5:43 p.m. MDT on March 15. Swanson will be the 17th CU-Boulder astronaut-alumnus to fly in space. A UC-Colorado Springs alum also has flown one space mission, bringing the university total to 18.

Together, CU alumni have flown 39 missions, beginning with a flight by Scott Carpenter in 1962 during NASA's Mercury program. CU ranks in the top five universities in the nation excluding military academies in the number of alumni astronauts that have flown in space.

The new solar array wings are expected to make the International Space Station an even brighter target for earthbound space buffs scanning the heavens. The wings will provide about 66 kilowatts of power, which could generate power for 30 homes.

Swanson, who was born in Syracuse, N.Y., graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1979. After graduation from CU-Boulder in 1983, he earned a master's of applied science from Florida Atlantic University in 1986 and a doctorate in computer science from Texas A&M University in 1998. He was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in August 1998 and completed astronaut training a year later.

Swanson will carry two University of Colorado medals with him on the mission, which will eventually be presented to the university.

Swanson said he always will remember his first spacewalk in 2007. "I got myself in position for a task up there and that's when the sun came out," Swanson said in a pre-flight interview with NASA. "That was an amazing view. It was just heart stopping, hanging on the top of the station. You look out and the sun comes up and you can see the station with the Earth below. I couldn't work for a few minutes. I just stopped and looked and took everything in. It was amazing."

For more information on the Discovery shuttle flight, including a mission summary, a NASA video and a NASA interview with Swanson, visit the Daily Camera news web site at: