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Vasaloppet: Swedish astronaut Marcus Wandt takes iconic race to space

Swedish astronaut Marcus Wandt, hailing from Mora, is set to carry the spirit of Vasaloppet beyond Earth’s confines during his inaugural space mission in January 2024. Packed alongside his essentials for the journey to the International Space Station (ISS) are a Vasaloppet bib number and medal, embodying the fusion of earthly traditions with extraterrestrial exploration.

Photo: Vasaloppet

“I relish achievements and challenges, and I’ve been skiing since I could walk. Bringing something from Vasaloppet felt like a natural choice,” remarks Marcus Wandt in a Vasaloppet press release, expressing his enthusiasm for the unique endeavor.

The analogy of Vasaloppet’s vast distances often surfaces, with 1,405 laps around the Earth and 73 round trips to the moon equating to the cumulative distance covered by all Vasaloppet skiers in the 99 races since 1922. Now, in January 2024, Vasaloppet’s journey transcends the terrestrial realm for the first time.

“Receiving the call from the European Space Agency (ESA) was a surprise. But a cross-country skiing astronaut born in Mora; of course, he should bring something from Vasaloppet on his first space journey. It feels very fun and honorable,” says Camilla Sandy Swarén, Press Contact at Vasaloppet.

Due to space constraints and NASA’s stringent approval process earlier this summer, only compact items made the cut. Now, both a Vasaloppet medal and a bib number are patiently waiting for Marcus Wandt’s mission with Axiom Mission 3, scheduled to commence at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in January.

“I’m really looking forward to everything about this trip,” says Wandt, currently undergoing intensive training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne. Despite being born in Mora and only living there briefly, Wandt has yet to participate in a Vasaloppet race, but there are plans to change that, possibly as early as the winter of 2025.

“Marcus Wandt would then be the first astronaut to ski Vasaloppet. Christer Fuglesang participated in Vasaloppet’s Vasastreak 2022 where he demonstrated push-ups, but he has not participated in a race so far,” adds Camilla Sandy Swarén.

Both Vasaloppet medal and bib number will find their way back to Vasaloppet after their celestial sojourn.

Marcus Wandt in Brief

  • Born: September 22, 1980, in Mora. Grew up in Hammarö and resides in Linköping.
  • Background: A former paratrooper and combat pilot, Marcus holds an electrical engineering degree from Chalmers University of Technology. Selected in November 2022 as part of a new astronaut group, comprising 17 astronauts from over 22,500 applicants.
  • Current Status: Sweden’s next astronaut, set to travel to the ISS in January 2024 as part of Axiom Space’s Ax-3 mission in collaboration with NASA and SpaceX. The crew includes Michael López-Alegría (USA), Walter Villadei (Italy), and Alper Gezeravci (Turkey). The space station stay is expected to last up to 14 days.
Marcus Wandt Vasaloppet
Marcus Wandt. Photo: ESA


Vasaloppet in Numbers

  • Since 1922, 624,559 Vasaloppet skiers have crossed the finish line, collectively covering a distance equivalent to 1,405 laps around the Earth or 73 round trips to the moon over the 99 races.

Are you interested in long-distance skiing? Click HERE and read more about it.

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