The Vice-Chancellor visits Kennedy Space Center for historic rocket launch
Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Vice-Chancellor of Luleå University of Technology, had one of the most thrilling moments of her life when she was invited to watch the impressive rocket launch of Falcon 9 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch went exactly as expected, and the astronaut Marcus Wandt is hereby the third Swede ever in space.
“I must say that it was a unique experience, and it was more emotional than I thought it would be. There were many in the audience who had tears in their eyes. I feel such wonder, joy and pride at what we humans can achieve when we stick together and collaborate, and I am proud of our third Swedish astronaut,” Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn said shortly after the launch.
Many of us surely followed the live broadcasting of the rocket launch yesterday from home in Sweden on our television, mobile phones or computers. These breath-taking minutes, with a countdown all the way to launch, and all the people full of expectation. One of them was thus Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn who, on site at Kennedy Space Center, saw Marcus Wandt, formerly a fighter pilot at Swedish Air Force Norrbotten Wing in northern Sweden and one of four astronauts in the Crew-Dragon capsule, being launched skyward to the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth. A medium-lift Falcon 9 rocket, measuring 70 metres high and 3.7 metres in diameter, lifted the crew and their capsule. The members of the crew are Marcus Wandt, Sweden, Michael López-Alegría, USA, Walter Villadei, Italy, and Alper Gezeravci, Türkiye. The name of their space mission, which involves research, is Axiom Mission 3.
“It has been an incredibly exciting and fun week including field trips, presentations, round table meetings and networking, but nothing compares to the launch today. Even though 99 launches out of 100 are successful, there was an air of excitement, mixed with joy and anticipation,” said Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn.
14 days in space laboratory
Once docked with the space laboratory, Marcus Wandt will spend up to 14 days conducting, among other things, one experiment on stem cells on behalf of Uppsala University and another experiment on ergonomics on behalf of KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He himself is part of research through his time spent in space. There are only around 300 persons who have been orbiting in space for more than eight days, during which most of the changes in the human body happen. The human body will be three per cent longer, fluids will be redistributed, and balance and vision as well as muscle mass and bone mass will be affected.
This is the first time that the European Space Agency, ESA, collaborates with a commercial company to send its astronauts into space. The aim is to conduct Swedish and European research at the International Space Station. It is the American space company Axiom Space that organises the trip in collaboration with the American space agency NASA, the American space company and producer of Falcon 9 SpaceX, and the European Space Agency ESA.
In Sweden, Marcus Wandt’s trip has been made possible through funding from the Swedish Ministry of Education and Science, the Swedish National Space Agency, the Swedish Armed Force, Swedish Space Corporation, SAAB and the industrial group FAM.
Other Swedish astronauts are Christer Fuglesang and Jessica Meir, the latter Honorary Doctor at Luleå University of Technology.
Sweden’s only Master Programme in Space Engineering
Luleå University of Technology offers Sweden’s only Master Programme in Space Engineering, as well as several Master programmes within the space field. Moreover, research is being conducted in atmospheric science and space systems.