Hopkins finishes six months in space

UPDATED AT 11:30 P.M.

Mike Hopkins has got to be tired.

By the time he returned to Earth on Monday night, the NASA flight engineer and former Illini football captain had logged more than 70.4 million miles, orbiting the planet 2,656 times.

Hopkins spent six months aboard the International Space Station before landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 10:24 p.m. CDT Monday with two Russian cosmonauts, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy. Poor weather in Kazakhstan threatened to postpone the landing of the Soyuz spacecraft carrying Hopkins, but the mission proceeded as scheduled.

A 1991 UI engineering graduate and former co-captain of the Illini football team, Hopkins blasted into space on Sept. 25 with Kotov and Ryazanskiy from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The crew conducted more than 200 experiments aboard the station, including one studying bone loss in space. Hopkins continued his “Train Like an Astronaut” fitness program, exercising two-and-a-half hours a day to counteract bone and muscle loss in microgravity. He also went on two spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line.
 

On Oct. 25, he spoke live to UI engineering students via satellite hookup. He also taped several messages played at UI football games and did interviews with the Big Ten Network and ESPN.

He posted frequent updates on Twitter during his time in space, including more than 100 photos.

His New Year's Day "selfie" was retweeted almost 2,000 times:

He tweeted photos of volcanoes, glaciers, lakes, the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon and the Northern Lights:

A Midwestern farm field:

And this:

The three crewmates went through a drill Sunday to train for their departure, climbing into their Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station's Poisk module to review various scenarios for undocking and landing.

Hopkins tweeted this:

They closed the hatch between the Soyuz and the space station at 3:58 p.m., and the astronauts separated at 7:02 p.m.

NASA Television is airing replays of the landing here.

Three new flight engineers -- NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev -- are scheduled to take their place at the space station after a launch March 25.

ROCKET MAN

A few facts and figures about former Illini Mike Hopkins’ six months in space:

— Over 25,000: Distance in miles the station traveled (one Earth orbit) while Hopkins ran 12 miles on his treadmill Saturday.
“I’ve now run around the world,” he tweeted.
— 2-7: Record of Hopkins’ former team while he was in space. (He still has his jersey.)
— 18-13: Illini basketball record while he was in space.
— 7: Major holidays missed (on Earth). While he had turkey — sort of — and he’ll get back in time for St. Paddy’s, Hopkins missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day, Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day. And Unofficial.

BY THE NUMBERS

— 12 hours, 58 minutes: Time Hopkins spent on two spacewalks to fix a critical cooling system on the station.
— 2 liters: Amount of water the astronaut drinks per day, along with three meals. NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said he couldn’t speculate what that means in terms of Tang consumed (not a NASA invention, incidentally).
— 52,200: Number of Twitter followers for Hopkins, who tweets as @AstroIllini.
— 106: Number of tweets posted from space, including more than 100 photos. Check out the Northern Lights and the Alps at night.
260 miles: The length of the longest leg of the Olympic torch run, from Earth to the space station. Russian cosmonauts arriving at the station Nov. 7 brought the unlit torch and presented it to crew members returning to Earth a few days later. Two Russian flight engineers also completed the first-ever torch handoff during a spacewalk two days later. The torch was used in a mock relay by the nine Russian, U.S., Japanese and European crew members on board.
— 357.5 feet: The length of the International Space Station, longer than a football field.
924,739 pounds: The weight of the space station.
— 89: Number of Russian launches to the space station, which functions as an international space port. It’s also hosted 37 space shuttle launches and 6 Japanese/European cargo ships.

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