NASA Astronaut visits 114th Fighter Wing

JOE FOSS FIELD, S.D. --

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hopkins, NASA Astronaut, gave a presentation about NASA’s goals for Mars and his experience on the International Space Station to a full auditorium here, Aug. 4, 2017. Hopkins focused on the effects of space travel on the human body and mind, along with other problems NASA is working to solve before future missions to Mars.


“We are focused on going to Mars,” said Hopkins. “2030 is the time frame that we are marching towards.”


Hopkins laid out the basic time frame for the NASA goal of putting a human on Mars. This included information about the new rockets and capsules being designed to carry a crew into space, and a six to nine month journey to the red planet. He then talked about his experience on the International Space Station and how astronauts are studied during and after their missions in order to better understand the effects that space travel has on their bodies and minds.


“Its all about science for exploration and science for helping life down here on earth,” said Hopkins. “Things act differently in space; it’s a strange environment and we need to understand it.”


Many experiments take place in the International Space Station. Some of which the astronauts conduct for scientists on the ground, while other experiments are conducted remotely from the ground while the astronauts sleep. The International Space Station is a 24-hour science lab where scientific research is constantly occurring.


During free time astronauts are able to video conference home, check emails, play around in microgravity, or just look out the window at the earth from 250 miles above the surface.


“Watching lighting storms from above and getting to see how the light dances through the clouds never got old,” said Hopkins.  “You just see some incredible sites all the time; they are almost like paintings.”


Hopkins went on to describe the exercise routine required for astronauts in space to help reduce the amount of bone and muscle loss associated with long stays in space. After returning to Earth, astronauts are routinely examined to see how long it takes for their bodies to recover, and watched for any long term effects that may be caused by space travel.


“We are the guinea pigs,” said Hopkins. “During the mission we have weekly video conferences with doctors and biweekly conferences with a psychologist to see how we are doing.”