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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: © 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 SPACE.com 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 SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.Live spacewalk coverage begins at 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 GMT).

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