Seeing your husband off as he leaves on a trip is what this week holds for Friendswood Junior High nurse Julie Hopkins. But to do this, she had to travel to Russia where her husband will be leaving for the Space Station next week.
Fifteen family members and friends set off for Moscow today. Michael Hopkins has been in quarantine there for four weeks but will be able to greet and visit with his wife and family before the blastoff into space. This has been a dream of his and he has spent the last two and one-half years preparing for this trip.
“It has seemed like a long time and suddenly it is here,” Hopkins said. “I can hardly believe it. We were in Moscow in June but this will be my first visit to Kazakhstan,” Julie Hopkins said. “Mike will be strapping himself into the Soyuz rocket September 25 so he can float around in space for the next six months.”
During the last two years, Hopkins has traveled to Japan, Germany and Canada as well as Russia. All the locations have experiments at the International Space Station (ISS) and he had to know about them and be able to work with them.
Hopkins is part of Expedition 38 and will be traveling with Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, both Russian astronauts. The three are friends and their families have all been together. This will be Kotov’s third flight while both Sergey and Mike will be on their first.
Expedition 38 will begin with the undocking of Soyuz TMA-09M in Nov. 2013. The three new crew members will arrive aboard Soyuz TMA-11M, which is scheduled to launch Sept. 25 and return in March 2014.
Hopkins was selected in July 2009 as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. He graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training, which included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station (ISS) systems, Extravehicular Activity (EVA), robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training.
Hopkins was assigned to the Expedition 38 crew as a flight engineer and is scheduled to fly to the ISS aboard Soyuz 36.
Hopkins’ family and friends will be at the launch in Kazakhstan. Baikonur, Russia’s primary space launch facility since the 1950s, is the largest in the world, and supports multiple launches of both manned and unmanned rockets every year. With the U.S. manned space program currently on hold, Baikonur is now the sole launching point for trips to the ISS.
The launch can be seen on NASA TV or on live stream NASA TV through the internet. The launch is scheduled for approximately 3:58 pm on the Sept 25 (which will be 3 am on Thursday in Russia), with the hatch opening the same night at approximately 11:58 pm.
“I am so happy for my husband who is having his dreams come true. The three men going might be from different countries but their dreams and passion for space travel and work are all the same. We think so much of Oleg and Sergey. They are part of our extended family,” Julie Hopkins said. “We ask all of our friends and our community to keep Mike in your thoughts and prayers as he lives his dream for six months.”
The Hopkins have two sons, a freshman and a 7th grader in Friendswood ISD. They live in Friendswood.