The First Swede in Space: The Making of a Public Science Hero
Andreas Gunnarsson: The Section for Science and Technology Studies, Gothenburg University, Sweden
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The first Swede in space, Christer Fuglesang, has become an iconic figure for the popularisation of science in Sweden. Named as Sweden’s first astronaut in 1992, Fuglesang remained a relatively anonymous and somewhat derisory figure prior to his space launch in 2006. After his space mission, however, Fuglesang has become the very personification of science in Swedish society. In this paper, the transformation of Fuglesang’s public persona and his construction as a Swedish public science hero is analysed in detail. It is discussed how after 2006, Fuglesang can be seen as providing confirmation, both of the existence of a cultural gap separating science from society, and of the ability of certain heroic individuals to bridge this gap in a way that renders it more appreciable to a larger public.

In the main part of the paper, three aspects of Fuglesang’s elevation into a Swedish public science hero are discussed: First, the cyborg metaphor is used to analyse the fearlessness Fuglesang expresses towards yielding to, and entering into close communion with science and technology. Second, the transcendence of earthly perspective aspired to by science for so long, and apparently realized through space travel, is discussed in relation to Fuglesang’s personal experiences of space. Third, the inseparability of Fuglesang’s nationality from his heroism is discussed. It was only through the repeated flagging of his Swedishness that Fuglesang’s routine space mission gained any particular significance enabling it to be communicated as a major scientific event.

Finally, closer attention is paid to the scientific message Fuglesang is delivering to Swedish society. It is argued that he acts to promote renewed faith and confidence in the ability of science to open up new horizons for the future. The task of the public science hero is to help enable these new horizons to colonize the public imagination.

Keywords: Christer Fuglesang; cyborg; popularisation; science hero; space travel; Sweden

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, Article 9, 2009
Andreas Gunnarsson
The First Swede in Space: The Making of a Public Science Hero
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    , Article 9, 2009
    Andreas Gunnarsson
    The First Swede in Space: The Making of a Public Science Hero
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