Where Are They Now - Mike Hopkins
Aug. 22, 2014
Mike Hopkins DB - 1987-1991
Mike Hopkins, a native of Lebanon, Missouri, joined the Fighting Illini in 1987 as a walk-on defensive back. From that unassuming start, Hopkins became one of the great Fighting Illini success stories, earning first-team Academic All-America honors, being named a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, and earning the George Huff Award during his career with the Illini.
A four-year letterwinner and team captain under former coach John Mackovic, he received the Illini's Special Teams Player of the Year award in 1989. Hopkins also helped lead the Fighting Illini to the 1990 Big Ten co-championship and four consecutive bowl appearances from 1988-91, the only time in school history that Illinois has reached bowl games in four or more consecutive seasons.
As an aerospace engineering major, Hopkins' goal was to become an astronaut. After earning a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Illinois in 1991, he obtained a master's degree in aerospace engineering from Stanford in 1992. On the path to his lifelong goal, Hopkins contributed to several trainings and missions: the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School in 1996, 418th Flight Test Squadron testing the C-17 and C-130 aircraft in 1997, the Canadian Flight Test Center in 1999, and studied six languages at the Università degli Studi di Parma in 2002.
Hopkins applied for nearly 12 years before being accepted into the NASA astronaut program and was serving as an assistant to the Joint Chief of Staff in the Pentagon prior to his selection to NASA. Hopkins was sent on his first space mission in the fall of 2013 on board the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft. Hopkins was launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25, 2013, and returned to earth on March 10, 2014, after spending nearly six months in space, orbiting Earth 2,656 times. During his time on the International Space Station, the crew conducted science experiments and maintenance.
Shortly after returning to Earth following his spacewalk, Hopkins delivered the commencement address at the 2014 University of Illinois graduation on May 17. This year's commencement ceremony was located in Memorial Stadium because of the ongoing renovations to State Farm Center and added special significance for the former Illini defensive back. Today, Hopkins resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and two sons, awaiting future NASA assignments.