Richland native to fly SpaceX ‘Dragon’ to International Space Station

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NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Expedition 37 flight engineer, like all International Space Station inhabitants, enjoys time in the Cupola, which affords the most broad views of Earth. "Behind" Hopkins can be seen the northern coast of Brazil, including the Acarau River delta in the state of Ceara, just west of the city of Fortaleza (out of frame).

As a youth, Mike Hopkins grew up in the Land of the Magic Dragon. Soon he’ll be flying and commanding a Dragon into space to rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Mike is the NASA Astronaut Commander of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon or C-1. This is a historic first. It is the premiere, operational, commercial mission in the history of human spaceflight. C-1 is scheduled to launch at 2:40 EDT on October 31 st from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and dock with the ISS 25 hours later.

“I am very excited about this mission,” Mike says in his traditional calm voice but beaming, broad smile. “I am also very honored and humbled to be the commander. I’m also hoping to be an inspiration to all kids and especially those in rural areas. If you have a dream and work hard, you can attain anything,”

Mike, or known as “Hoppy” to those that knew him as a youth, was born in Lebanon, Missouri, grew up on a farm in Richland, MO and graduated Valedictorian from School of the Osage in Lake Ozark, MO in 1987. He has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois, and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Stanford University. Before joining NASA, Hopkins was a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force and is currently a Colonel.

Carrying his nickname from the Lake forward, his call name became Hopper when he joined NASA as an astronaut in 2009.

He made his first spaceflight to the ISS as a Flight Engineer on the Russian Soyuz TMA-10M. He was an ISS crew member of Expedition 37/Expedition 38, from September 2013 until March 2014. He conducted two spacewalks totaling nearly 13 hours replacing a critical degraded pump module concluding on Christmas Eve.

Mike and his crew, astronauts Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plan to be aboard the space station for six months. They’ll be joining NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos already aboard the ISS.

They’ll vote in space and celebrate the 20 th anniversary of the ISS being continuously occupied. The ISS, human history’s most complex machine ever built, has been home to conducting tens of thousands of micro-gravity experiments benefiting humankind. It’s a stepping stone towards returning yo the Moon, going to Mars, future space travel and a beacon of successful, international cooperation.

Mike adds, “This flight ushers in a new era of spaceflight. It opens up new opportunities to commercial partners.” The sky is no longer the limit as the saying goes. Now it is just the beginning.

As to the ISS’s recent uptick in an air leak, Mike’s not too concerned. “NASA has very good procedures in place,” he points out. “They’ll find it and repair it before our launch.”

He goes on to personally add, “My family has been great. My wife Julie has had to go into quarantine a bit earlier than usual to help keep our space crew healthy. Our two boys, Ryan, 22 and Luke, 19, are handling this all quite well. They’re both in college but will attend the launch.”

As to what he’ll individually take to space, “I’m bringing some of our mission patches, pendants and rings to give to my family and close friends. My Dad’s Marine flight journal is not going to space with me this time. I gave it to our older son who’s in the Air Force ROTC program to log his own flights.”

“I’m excited to float in space again and see the changes aboard the space station since I was there last. I’m also looking forward to coming home and re-uniting with my family.”

Mike, his crew and missions can be followed on Twitter at @Astro_illini, commercial crew on Facebook, and