Illini alum shares down-to-Earth views

Illini alum shares down-to-Earth views

Back on planet Earth after nearly six months in space, a bright-eyed Mike Hopkins sat down early Thursday for his first one-on-one interviews — via satellite, from Johnson Space Center, with a dozen media outlets (including this one).

Highlights of what the Illinois football captain turned astronaut had to say before taking his family to see Blake Shelton at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:

On that shot from space of Champaign, which #AstroIllini took and tweeted with just a week left in his voyage:

"Unfortunately, you guys had a pretty rough winter, which meant a lot of clouds blocking our view for a good portion of the mission. The skies kind of cleared as the mission was coming to an end and I was able to snap that shot of Champaign. I felt very fortunate."

On his struggles shooting his real hometown — Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. — from high in the sky:

"I never realized how many lakes there are in the Ozarks."

On the photos he didn't get around to taking:

"I was trying to capture every football stadium I played in while I was at the University of Illinois. But I got a lot of them, which was kind of neat."

On the highlight of last week's flight home from Russia:

"One of the things I'd really missed was fresh produce, so on the airplane ride from Kazakhstan to Houston I had an absolutely fantastic apple and a fresh green salad that was wonderful."

On the more grueling assignment — training for 166 days in space or John Mackovic's early '90s two-a-days:

"Hmmm. Two-a-days are pretty tough but I was a lot younger then, too. Actually, the workout regimen and really, my whole experience there at Illinois helped me get through the time in the microgravity environment. I know how to work out. I know how to push myself from those days on the football field. That translated directly into my time on the station."

On his message for his alma mater's football team, which went 2-7 after he blasted off:

"I guess they're in the middle of spring ball right now. This is the grind time; this is where you get better. So best of luck with that and I'm looking forward to an exciting fall season."

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