The current commander of the International Space Station (ISS), Steven Swanson, is one of us. A long time fan of science fiction television shows like Star Trek and Firefly, Swanson is taking the geek into space, literally.
A big fan of Joss Whedon’s woefully short lived series Firefly, Swanson took a box set of the series and a copy of the film Serenity, up to the ISS back on his first mission, STS-117, in 2007. Now on his third mission to the space station, this time as commander, Swanson had plans to represent another of his sci-fi loves in his proposed design for the Expedition 40 mission badge.
Collaborating with his daughter, computer science major and one time graphic designer Caroline, Swanson designed a badge that to him represented both the impact that science fiction has had on actual science as well as space exploration. The pair zeroed in on a symbol of the Klingon race. For those not familiar with Star Trek, the Klingons are arguably the most badass of the races we meet in the Trek universe.
While the badge was ultimately vetoed by the copyright lawyers at NASA with concerns about using the design made famous by Star Trek:The Next Generation, it was never intended as a Star Trek commercial.
“He mentioned Star Trek and the influence that television and movies about space travel have had on him and the youth of American, or the world even,” His wife Mary told collectSpace,” and how [the patch] was paying homage to how that has stirred the imaginations of thousands of people and made them want to maybe become astronauts, or at least work in the space program.”
While Swanson grew up watching Star Trek, he didn’t always dream of blasting off. It wasn’t until he had already earned a degree in engineering physics and was just finishing up his degree in computer science that he began to consider a career in space science.
As he mulled over the options for his career he narrowed down the field. He wanted something that would not only be mentally challenging, but that also had an element of the physical, and of course, a dash of adventure.
“Of course, everybody wants adventure,” he told NASA,” and maybe a little exploration. So, throwing all those things together, it popped in my head, you know, an astronaut would fit that bill.”
The challenging mission of becoming an astronaut took Swanson another 13 years, but Swanson seems to be enjoying the end result. On his third mission, Swanson was most excited to get a look at the newly added, and now well recognized, viewing Cupola.
“That was not there the first two times. Looking out that window is just going to be fantastic,” he said in his NASA interview.
Commemorating the long awaited moment, Swanson made history by beaming back to earth the first ever Instagram from space.
One of two selfies that have been sent back to earth via Instagram, Swanson sports fan tees as more evidence of his status as a tried and true geek.
As a real life geek hero, Swanson spends his time participating in various experiments and continues to be a part of the ground breaking elements of being a space station commander. This month he was was the first to be interviewed by CNN from space as part of their iReport. Here he answers questions from the children of Earth, as well as those sent in by CNN readers and viewers.
Sadly, Commander Swanson was not available for a Geek interview as he is busy being awesome in space. Live long and prosper, sir.