Astronauts Catch 'March Madness' in Space

Astronauts Catch 'March Madness' in Space
Astronaut Steve Swanson, STS-119 mission specialist, floats through a hatch on the International Space Station while space shuttle Discovery is docked with the station on March 18, 2009. (Image credit: NASA.)

Astronautsin space are hard at work building the International Space Station, but thatdoesn?t mean they are immune to the lure of Earth?s NCAA college basketballchampionship tournament.

Theseven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery, currently docked atthe station, are receiving updates on the basketball tournament in their dailyelectronic mail. Mission Control has been beaming up the latest brackets forthe teams since Friday.

?It?sstrictly keeping them up to date in the games,? NASA spokesperson Kyle Herringtold from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Discoveryhas been linked to the $100 billion International Space Station since Tuesdayto ferry a new crewmember to the orbiting lab and deliver the outpost?s finalset of U.S. solar arrays. The $298 million solarwings were unfurled on Friday, and astronauts plan to perform thesecond of three planned spacewalks on Saturday.

Herringsaid that before astronauts launch into space, they have a chance to choosewhich types of news or events to be included in their daily news roundup. One of Discovery?screwmembers likely asked for NCAA basketball tournament updates, he said.

Discovery?screw has at least one diehard basketball fan, lead spacewalker SteveSwanson, who mentioned his affinity for the game among his interests in hisNASA biography. His crewmates also listed a varietyof sports, including snowboarding, hiking, hang-gliding, soccer and NASCARamong others.

Discovery astronautswill miss the first two rounds of the basketball tournament, since theylaunched on March 15 and will land on March 28. The three long-durationastronauts on the space station, however, have to wait longer.

Spacestation skipper Michael Fincke of NASA, anadmitted a football fan, is due to return to Earth with Russian cosmonauton April 7 with a visiting American space tourist after spending six months inorbit. However, they are set to land on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan inCentral Asia, where U.S. college basketball tournament results may be harder tocome by.

SPACE.comis providing continuous coverage of STS-119 with reporter Clara Moskowitz andsenior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for missionupdates, live spacewalk coverage and's live NASA TV video feed.Live spacewalk coverage begins at 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 GMT).

  • Video - How Astronauts Work Out in Space
  • Video - Space Station Acrobatics
  • New Show - Inside the International Space Station


Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.