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From space to the South Island

By May 16, 2018March 20th, 2019No Comments

US Air Force Colonel and NASA astronaut Michael S Hopkins spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS), and is now working on technology to launch crew to the space station from the United States.

In April Col. Hopkins visited New Zealand and travelled to Alexandra to have lunch with the CSST team and a group from the local science and business communities. While in town he also gave a public talk about his experiences as an astronaut to a sold out crowd at the Alexandra Community Centre and Memorial Theatre.

NASA astronaut Col. Michael S Hopkins speaks to a packed audience in Alexandra.

Mike was selected by NASA as an astronaut in 2009, and as a member of the Expedition 37/38 crew he logged 166 days in space. He launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2013.

During his stay aboard the ISS, he did two spacewalks, totalling 12 hours and 58 minutes, to change out a degraded pump module. “It was an incredible feeling… everyone has a goal to be able to do (a space walk) but on the other hand they are a lot of work. It is hard. It can also be stressful, it can be a little nerve wrecking, very intense, very focussed when you are out the door… it’s a huge mental game.”

He painted a vivid picture of life on the ISS, and got plenty of questions about the day-to-day activities on board. One person asked what the team did for fun. “Two things,” said Mike, “you go and look at the map to work out what part of the world the ISS is currently travelling over. If it’s a place you’re interesting in, like your hometown or somewhere you want to visit, you take pictures. The other thing you do is head down to the food quarters and catch up on email, or call home.”

Mike spoke to his wife every day he was on the space station, although with two kids in five different sports team and a Master’s degree on her plate, she didn’t always have time to talk to him! If that was the case he would read or watch movies.

The team at CSST were delighted to see just how many people were interested in Col. Hopkins talk and getting a chance to ask questions or get a photo with him. “Overall we felt the event was a great success because of the opportunity it afforded the young people of our community,” said Delwyn Moller, CSST Director of Research and former NASA engineer.

Delwyn continued, “One of the goals of the NASA outreach programme is to get young people excited about science, technology, engineering and maths, and be inspired to dream big and work hard to achieve those goals. We were so pleased to see the number of students who attended Col. Hopkins talk, the enthusiasm that they brought and excellent questions that they asked. That’s what events like this are all about.”

Year 5-6 students from Alexandra Primary School singing “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)”.

Craig Grant from the Otago Museum said he was “so pleased with the turnout, and the care given to welcoming Col. Hopkins to the Alexandra community. The International Space Station song sung by the Year 5-6 students from Alexandra Primary and the full audience participation in the waiata was a wonderful welcoming gesture from the community.”

Col. Hopkins left Alexandra to continue on his whirlwind tour of Otago, doing an evening talk in Queenstown, before flying back to Houston the following day.

Col. Michael S Hopkins with the team from the Centre for Space Science Technology who organised the event.