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Astronaut lands in Collierville

It is a long way from outer space to Collierville, but NASA Astronaut Michael Hopkins made the trip on Feb. 9 to visit students at Sycamore Elementary and Schilling Farms Middle schools.
Hopkins, who has nephews in both schools, began his day at Schilling Farms with a multimedia presentation detailing his preparation for and participation in Expedition 37/38 to the International Space Station.
Students were mesmerized by the account of his 166 days in space, during which time he completed 2,656 orbits of the Earth and traveled more than 70 million miles.
After his presentation, Hopkins answered students’ questions on topics from weightlessness to boredom and freeze dried foods for nearly half an hour. After visiting three classrooms, he met in the school library with the members of the Schilling Farms First Lego team to discuss career pathways in science and technology.
After lunch and a quick tour of Collierville, he arrived at Sycamore Elementary for a similar program in the afternoon.
Hopkins, who grew up on a farm near Richland, Mo., earned a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering while playing football at the University of Illinois.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force in 1992 and went on to earn his M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University that same year. Rising to the rank of colonel in 2009, Hopkins was selected as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.
On Sept. 25, 2013, he launched from Kazakhstan with two Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station. While there, Hopkins conducted two spacewalks totaling 12 hours and 58 minutes. He returned to Earth on March 10, 2014.
“NASA receives thousands of requests annually for astronaut appearances from schools, universities, community groups, businesses and military organizations,” said Schilling Farms Principal Jeff Jones. “Due to this high demand and the extensive training requirements for astronauts, only a limited number of appearance requests are approved.
“We are humbled and grateful that Astronaut Hopkins was approved to visit two of our Collierville schools today,” he continued.
Acknowledging the special nature of these visits, Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner attended the morning program at Schilling Farms Middle, and Collierville Schools Superintendent John Aitken attended the afternoon program at Sycamore Elementary.

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