Sweden Gives Hero's Welcome to its First Spaceflyer

Sweden Gives Hero's Welcome to its First Spaceflyer
European Space Agency Mission Specialist Christer Fuglesang, of Sweden, gives the thumbs up to reporters Sunday afternoon Dec. 3, 2006 after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center's shuttle landing facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., with his fellow crew members. The seven member crew is scheduled to lift off Thursday night onboard the space shuttle Discovery. (Image credit: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara.)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Sweden on Thursday gave a hero'swelcome to its first astronaut, ChristerFuglesang, as he arrived home following a 13-dayNASA mission to the International SpaceStation.

Fuglesang, whose spacejourney drew immenseinterest in Sweden, was greeted by dozens of students, fans and journalistsas he arrived at Arlanda airport.

"Welcome home to a Sweden that is full of pride and joy over what you have accomplished," Deputy PrimeMinister Maud Olofsson said at a televised unveiling of a portrait of Fuglesangto be displayed in an airport terminal.

Fuglesang was then greetedby Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at the government building in downtown Stockholm before lunch with the entire Cabinet.

On Friday, he will dinewith Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia at the royal castle to tellthem about his experiences in space.

Fuglesang said he had beenoverwhelmed by the high interest in his mission, which for weeks was front-pagematerial in Swedish newspapers for weeks.

"I have felt the enormoussupport and interest you have shown for this trip," Fuglesang said. "I hopethis can increase the interest for space, technology and natural sciences in Sweden ... so that we can improve our technological edge."

Fuglesangwas part of a Discovery crew that repaired and rewired the space station anddelivered U.S. astronaut Sunita"Suni" Williams to the orbiting outpost for a six-month stay.

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