Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Spaced Out

FAU gained a notable alumnus last year when mission specialist Steven Swanson flew onboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis in June. As a way to pay his respects to the university, Swanson brought a flag with FAU’s logo on his 14-day mission and presented the flag to university President Frank Brogan at a graduation ceremony in December.

“It was a way to say thanks,” Swanson told the UP. “[My education] actually helped me out in my career to become an astronaut.”

Swanson received his master’s in computer systems in ’86 and became a systems engineer at NASA in ’87. He later became an astronaut and attached two solar panels – called solar arrays – to the International Space Station on his first mission. These arrays provide energy to the station, similarly to solar panels found on Earth. Swanson will return to the International Space Station in November 2008 to attach the remaining panel.

During the graduation ceremony, Swanson showed a video at FAU’s University Theatre about his time in space as part of the “Discover Space” presentation, hosted by the College of Engineering and Computer Science. He answered several burning questions during the presentation, such as what astronauts eat on a mission.

For the record, astronauts eat typical food – like shrimp cocktail – but need to hydrate them before consumption. Since there are no refrigerators in space, food must be dehydrated in order to be preserved. Of course, the way a person eats in space is slightly different than on Earth, as there is no gravity to keep food on a plate.

“Playing with your food is required in space,” Swanson said. “It’s what happens.”

Although Swanson initially said that the beach was his major draw to FAU, he admits that the real reason he enrolled in the university was its impressive computer science department.

“I looked into the academic program . . . [and] I was surprised at how good the computer science program was,” Swanson told the UP.

Twenty-one years later, though, enrollment in the computer science program is declining. Borko Furht, professor and chairman of the computer science and engineering department, said this is because more universities offer computer science degrees.

“We are very proud to have an astronaut, and we hope this will increase enrollment,” Furht said. “If students know about this, of course they would be proud, too.”

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