Oct 27, 2020 - Science

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins on his return to space

Photo illustration of Michael S. Hopkins

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Anadolu Agency, Jim Watson/Getty Images

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is slated to head back to the International Space Station next month for his first flight to orbit since 2013.

Why it matters: Hopkins will command the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take him and three other crewmembers — NASA's Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi — to the station as part of the capsule's first crewed, non-test flight to orbit.

What's happening: Hopkins has been training for months with his fellow astronauts.

  • The four crewmembers paid close attention to SpaceX's first crewed flight with NASA's Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley this summer to help make any changes necessary ahead of their flight.
  • But Hopkins and his crewmembers are effectively the first to go through a version of what will be SpaceX's training for astronauts.
  • "Bob and Doug had been working with SpaceX for quite a few years before they launched," Hopkins told me. "They didn't have to sit through the same classes and a number of things that we've gone through."

Between the lines: Hopkins says he's excited to see how the ISS has changed in the years since he's been gone.

  • One thing that's different: NASA is now allowing private companies like Estée Lauder to pay to market their products using the station.
  • While some say that's a misuse of astronaut crew time, Hopkins doesn't necessarily see it that way:
"There have been a lot of people that have looked at this and decided that this is the right way to go, and so our job is to execute that mission as best we can. I trust the system. I trust the people that are building our programs."

What's next: NASA and SpaceX were originally planning on launching the mission on Halloween, but technical concerns about the Falcon 9 rocket forced a delay.

  • Now, NASA is targeting Nov. 14 for Hopkins and his crewmates to take flight from Florida.
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