Spaceflight Insider

Astronaut Steve Swanson leaving NASA

International Space Station Space Shuttle Discovery Atlantis Steve Swanson STS 117 119 NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider Date: 10-24-13 Location: Bldg 7, SSATA Subject: Support for SSATA Crew Training & Certification - ISS Increment 39 Crew Member Steve Swanson Photograher: James Blair

Three-time space flight veteran Steve Swanson has decided to leave NASA. His final day with the agency will be Aug. 30. Photo Credit: James Blair / NASA

NASA is poised to lose another member of the U.S. space agency’s Astronaut Corps. Experienced space flight veterans Dominic A. “Tony” Antonelli, Mike Foreman, and Stephen Frick ended their time with the agency in a roughly one-week time frame last month. Now, three-time shuttle veteran Steven Swanson joins them, becoming one among many who have opted to leave the agency in the post-shuttle era.

Swanson, who has wracked up almost 200 days on orbit, will leave NASA on Aug. 30. He has decided to join Boise State University in Idaho as an educator in residence.

“Steve Swanson, or Swanny as we know him, has contributed so much more to the human space program than just serving on his three missions. His infectious laugh, keen intellect, and easy going personality have garnered the respect and friendship of everyone with whom he works. He also will be sorely missed on our Wednesday night basketball team!” said the Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, Chris Cassidy, from Johnson Space Center (JSC) located in Houston, Texas.

The plume from STS-117 space shuttle Atlantis Kennedy Space Center NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Swanson launched twice onboard a NASA shuttle and once atop a Russian Soyuz booster during his time with the space agency. Photo Credit: Ken Thornsley / NASA

Swanson actually began his time with NASA in 1987 as a systems and flight engineer in the Aircraft Operations Division at JSC, working on the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA). While there, he worked to improve the aircraft’s navigation and control systems, as well as to include a real-time wind determination algorithm.

In May of the following year, he was selected to become an astronaut. As a member of this elite corps, Swanson would travel three times to the International Space Station, including one long-duration stay at the orbiting laboratory.

As is the case with all members of the Astronaut Corps, Swanson also held other technical roles during his time with the Astronaut Office. These included positions within the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations and Robotics branches. Like all other astronauts, he had to serve several times as “Capsule Communicator” – more commonly known as CAPCOM.

Swanson’s first ride “uphill” was as a mission specialist on STS-117 on board Atlantis in June of 2007. He would next fly on Discovery in March of 2009 as a mission specialist on STS-119. As was the case with most shuttle missions to the ISS, these flights helped send key station components to low-Earth orbit. These included truss segments, solar arrays as well as other equipment.

Swanson helped in the station’s assembly during the two spacewalks that he conducted on each mission. When completed, he had gained more than 26 hours of extra-vehicular activity time outside the station.

Swanson’s last trip to orbit took place on board the Russian Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft in 2014. As a member of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews, Swanson would spend six months on the ISS. While there, he conducted an array of Earth remote-sensing and biology, bone and muscle physiology studies, as well as carried out another EVA. Swanson’s time on orbit would require him to take on a more challenging role – as the station’s commander. Swanson took charge of the ISS’ in May of 2014, and he would remain in command until landing on the Kazakh Steppe region of Kazakhstan on Sept. 10 of that year.

When all was said and done, Swanson spent some 169 days on orbit during his final stay on the ISS, bringing his total time above our world at 195 days.

While he was born in Syracuse, New York, Swanson considers Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to be his hometown. He earned a doctorate in computer science from Texas A&M University in College Station, and he holds degrees from the University of Colorado and Florida Atlantic University.

Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off on mission STS-117 in June of 2007. Photo Credit: NASA

Swanson first flew to orbit on Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-117. Photo Credit: NASA


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

No certainty of flying again for years and better financial security outside NASA must be a key factor for these senior astronauts.

While I do not know the details, I can only say that it is a shame to lose veterans in so specialized, highly dangerous, and valuable a field as human spaceflight. It only says poor things about our nation. Men and women of such experience must be invaluable, so to lose them can only be a great loss to the program and indicates endemic problems.

Steve Swanson served our country with integrity, great skill and intelligence, teamwork, and from what I have been told, a passion for space exploration. Congratulations to Steve Swanson and best wishes in his next chapter!

What Carl said.

What does this say about the future of NASA. It’s becoming an administration for desk jockies only. The US government needs to man-up and start funding this incredibly valuable institution properly, or give up entirely and leave it to developing nations to pick up the cause.

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