Conversations from space

Conversations from space

CHAMPAIGN -- From hundreds of miles above us, a University of Illinois graduate is hard at work on the International Space Station. But he's still staying connected to us here on earth.
CHAMPAIGN -- From hundreds of miles above us, a University of Illinois graduate is hard at work on the International Space Station. But he's still staying connected to us here on earth.

Mike Hopkins says his memories of living in Champaign still stick with him today. He says living in space is definitely an adjustment, but it's one he loves and wouldn't it trade for the world, or any of the other planets either.

Since launching aboard the ISS about two months ago, Mike has been living out the dream he started decades ago.

"You keep pinching yourself," said Mike. "It's hard to believe you're actually here."

Mike came to the University of Illinois already knowing he wanted to be an astronaut. He left with four years worth of memories, an engineering degree and his wife; all things which changed his life.

"I'm certainly an Illini at heart and I certainly wouldn't be here without the University of Illinois and my time spent in Champaign," said Mike.

Now Mike's part of a six-member international team, including fellow NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio.

"It never gets old," said Rick. "This is my fourth time to the International Space Station but my first three missions were only two weeks long, so I kind of keep pinching myself thinking 'wow, I'm going to be here for six months and I'm still just getting settled in.' So I look forward to a great mission and doing a lot of science and research."

The Americans have worked on experiments together in their lab, like troubleshooting a piece of gear that leaked water during a space walk. Even though crew mates can become like family, Mike says there's still no replacing the real thing.

"If we have a free moment, we usually have the opportunity to call somebody, family, friends, whoever that may be," said Mike. "And then in addition, with our families, we get once a week a video conference and that's always nice on the weekends to be able to see their faces."

And he's been connecting with more than just family and friends. Space fans can keep tabs on the Illini astronaut by following his Twitter feed.

"It's neat to be able to share just a little bit about what we're experiencing up here and the views are absolutely stunning," said Mike. "It's one of those things that you never quite get used to, looking down on the earth in all it's glory from up here and so if you can just share a little bit of that with people around the world, that's a great experience and one that's a lot of fun."

A lot of fun, but also a lot of work with hundreds of experiments to process and two hours of exercise to fit in each day. But Mike says it's worth it.

"You wish you could just share with everybody and everybody had the opportunity to experience this because it is amazing," said Mike. "Being able to float up here, being able to do all the exciting science going on, to live here. Every moment is fun, exciting and it's hard not to smile."

So he'll be doing a lot of that as he continues his mission in space. Mike has about four months left up there on the ISS. To follow along with what Mike's up to, click here.
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