Meet Illini Astronaut Michael Hopkins and tour Space Center Houston!

Join other Houston Illini as we meet Illinois' Astronaut Michael Hopkins and tour Space Center Houston! Having recently returned from six months on the ISS, Mike will share with us his adventures and memories from space and answer your questions.

On Saturday, June 21, all Houston-area Illini and guests have an opportunity to meet Illinois' alumni Astronaut Michael Hopkins and tour Space Center Houston.  Three months ago Mike returned from a very successful six month mission on the International Space Station.  Three weeks ago he delivered a fantastic commencement address to Illinois' 2014 graduating class. Now, it's Houston Illini's turn!
Tickets are only $18 each (regular admission price is $30) for this family friendly event suitable for all ages. Each Houston Illini Club purchased ticket provides you and your guests access to:
  • Our club's privately rented room, the Saturn Club, to allow us to meet Mike after we attend his speech in the theater;
  • Space Center Houston and all of its exhibits and attractions for the remainder of the day! 

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for yourself and your guests by credit card!  You may purchase by credit card up to the day of the event, but as we are limiting total ticket sales to a maximum of 100 please do not hesitate to be assured access to this rare event. You do not need to be an active club member to purchase tickets or to participate in this event. Nevertheless, we encourage all Houston-residing Illinois alum to join or renew with the club to support this and other Illinois' events in Houston as well as our annual scholarship (note that our membership year is soon to expire on June 30.)


  • 1:30 - 2:00 PM: Illini and guests pick-up pre-purchased tickets at the volunteers' staffed table set-up at Space Center Houston's entrance, then proceed into SCH to view the exhibits.  NOTE: YOU MUST ARRIVE BY 2 PM TO PICK UP YOUR TICKETS!
  • 2:00 - 2:30 PM: View the Space Center Houston's exhibits, then proceed into the Northrop Grumman Large Screen Theater at the earliest possible opportunity (approximately 2:10 PM.)
  • 2:30 - 3:00 PM: Watch the 30-minute International Space Station film Destination Station.  
  • 3:00 - 3:30 PM: Remaining in our seats Illini Astronaut Mike Hopkins shares his personal memories, and images, of his six months' life and work on the International Space Station and his preparation leading up to his mission.
  • 3:30 - 4:30 PM: Upon conclusion of Mike's speech all Illini and guests who purchased group tickets from the Houston Illini Club are invited upstairs to our privately rented room Saturn Club for an opportunity to meet Mike Hopkins and to ask questions you may have about the ISS, life in space, and lessons that he has learned from his experiences.  Thereafter you may tour Space Center Houston and its many exhibits.

Questions? Contact Event Organizers Mark Ulrich or Mike Davis.

                                                                                                   THE SATURN CLUB





Click below for Mike's May 17th commencement address to Illinois' 2014 graduating class:

Click below for Mike's discussion with U of I students while on the International Space Station:

NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins:

Mike Hopkins, a 1991 UI aeronautical and astronautical engineering graduate and former co-captain of the Illini football team, just returned from six months aboard the International Space Station.  The NASA flight engineer blasted into space on Sept. 25, 2013 with two Russian cosmonauts and logged more than 70.4 million miles aboard the station, orbiting the Earth 2,656 times.  Hopkins kept in touch with his alma mater while in space, hooking up for a live interview with aerospace engineering students via satellite in October and filming promotional spots for UI athletics and the Big Ten Network. He also tweeted dozens of photos from the space station, including a shot of Champaign-Urbana.

He chose the university for its highly rated engineering school but also decided to walk on to the football team in 1988. He won a scholarship, became a starter and was team co-captain as a senior, playing defensive back and going to four bowl games.  He has credited his former undergraduate adviser, Professor John Prussing, and former Illini Coach Lou Tepper with guiding him through the U of I.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here, just having returned from space, without the University of Illinois,” he said.  “The total experience at Illinois – both the educational and the social side – really made me feel like a member of a larger team,” he said of his undergraduate experience, “and being a part of the team is a big part of what we do at NASA.”

Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Mo., and grew up on a farm in nearby Richland. He decided to become an astronaut in high school, during the early days of the space shuttle program. He was already interested in engineering, as his father was a former Marine pilot and his uncle flew for the Air Force. Watching the early shuttle missions "helped kindle that fire in me for space exploration," he said in a NASA interview.

He completed a master's degree in engineering from Stanford University and then began working on space systems technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.  He later became a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base and in 2002 won a scholarship to study political science in Italy. He then went to work at the Pentagon, eventually becoming a special assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He was selected for the astronaut corps in 2009, on his fourth try, and last fall became the first member of his class to fly into space.  The crew conducted more than 200 experiments aboard the station, including one studying bone loss in space. Hopkins continued his "Train Like an Astronaut" fitness program, exercising 2-1/2 hours a day to counteract bone and muscle loss in microgravity. He also went on two spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line.  The torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was also brought on board the space station temporarily by two Russian cosmonauts who arrived in February.