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Learning lessons from space

URBANA -- It's not everyday you get to meet someone who's been to outer space, but UI students got to talk with two graduates who have seen the final frontier firsthand.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- It's not everyday you get to meet someone who's been to outer space, but UI students got to talk with two graduates who have seen the final frontier firsthand.

It's the kind of stuff most of us will only dream about. Students say it was an inspiration, making them want to pursue their goals and maybe make it out there someday.

When most students come to college, they don't always gravitate toward the hardest classes.

"It's a prestigious program and a very good one to have been a student in," said alumni and former astronaut Steve Nagel.

But the aerospace engineering students are up for a challenge. It's one that 1968 graduate Nagel got to experience for himself; outer space.

"Each of those trips was like a big adventure that you go on that's not like anything you do on the ground," said Nagel.

"I'd like to give you this really academic answer but the fact of the matter is that it's cool," said student Jenny Roderick. "It's something I'm interested in and as soon as I saw it, I jumped at the opportunity."

But Nagel's not the only Illini astronaut the students would hear from. Students got to do a live satellite chat with Mike Hopkins, who has been orbiting earth in the International Space Station for about a month.

"The station is even more amazing than I ever thought it was going to be," said Hopkins.

Hopkins showed them some of the best parts of zero-gravity life, including how he can do a flip.

"It doesn't get old," said Hopkins. "Even just in the middle of the work day, you just get to float around from one module to the other and it's just fun. It's an experience I've never had before."

Students say they were excited to talk to someone who was actually in space and they look forward to their own opportunity in the future.

"I was surprised that he could respond to me very promptly and he could hear me very clearly," said student Bentic Sebastian.

About a dozen students had questions for Hopkins, but he didn't get to answer all of them. So he offered to email them about the ones they didn't get to.
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