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Michael Hopkins: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew Dragon commander

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins celebrating the announcement in August 2018 that he would be flying to the International Space Station on the first full-fledged mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon.
NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins celebrating the announcement in August 2018 that he would be flying to the International Space Station on the first full-fledged mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Col. Michael Hopkins is a NASA astronaut and U.S. Air Force colonel. He served as commander on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, which launched on November 15, 2020. The mission represented the first commercial crewed spacecraft to travel to the International Space Station. He is currently a flight engineer on the ISS for NASA’s Expedition 64, which is his second long-duration space mission. 

For his first expedition, Expedition 37/38, Hopkins spent 166 days in space. During that time, he logged almost 13 hours of spacewalks. Hopkins became the first U.S. military transfer in space, as he voluntarily transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Space Force.

Related: Meet Crew-1, the 4 astronauts who flew on SpaceX's first Crew Dragon

Early years

Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri on December 28, 1968, and grew up on a farm outside Richland, Missouri. After graduating from School of the Osage High School in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, he attended the University of Illinois, where he completed a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering in 1991. He attended Stanford University to study for a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering in 1992.

Hopkins was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and from 1993 was based at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked on space systems technologies. Three years later, he enrolled in a U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School flight test engineering course at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. He graduated in 1997, after which he tested C-17 and C-130 aircraft at the 418 Flight Test Squadron.

In 1999, Hopkins was part of an exchange programme with the Canadian Flight Test Centre in Cold Lake, Alberta. In 2002, the George and Carol Olmsted Foundation selected Hopkins as an Olmsted scholar. The program offers military members a two-year immersion in another country and culture; in 2003, following six months of language training, Hopkins moved to Parma, Italy, where he studied political science at the Università degli Studi di Parma.

Upon his return to the U.S. in 2005, he served as project engineer and program manager in the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office at the Pentagon. In 2008 Hopkins became special assistant to the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In a view from NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins’ high definition helmet camera, NASA astronaut Victor Glover is seen working outside the International Space Station on a spacewalk on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

In a view from NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins’ high definition helmet camera, NASA astronaut Victor Glover is seen working outside the International Space Station on a spacewalk on Saturday, March 13, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

When did Michael Hopkins become an astronaut?

In 2009, Hopkins was selected as part of NASA’s 20th astronaut class. He graduated from astronaut candidate training in 2011. Hopkins’ first assignment in space was in 2013. Along with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, Hopkins travelled to the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft as a member of Expedition 37/38. 

On that trip, Hopkins became the first Catholic to practice his faith in space, taking consecrated wafers which are part of Catholicism’s Communion service with him to the ISS. "NASA has been great," he told the National Catholic Register. "They didn’t have any reservations about me taking the Eucharist up or to practicing my faith on orbit. Of course, I’m there with a job to do, and I have to do that, but there was no interference. There are quite a few astronauts who are very religious. We are practicing our faith. We’re not silent about that."

During his time on the space station, Hopkins took part in two spacewalks, totaling 12 hours and 58 minutes, to replace a degraded pump module. He remained in space for 166 days, returning to Earth on March 10, 2014.

This screenshot shows the welcome ceremony for SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts (bottom, from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi, who arrived at the International Space Station on the night of Nov. 16, 2020. In the back row are NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who have been living on the orbiting lab since October 2020.

This screenshot shows the welcome ceremony for SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts (bottom, from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi, who arrived at the International Space Station on the night of Nov. 16, 2020. In the back row are NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who have been living on the orbiting lab since October 2020.  (Image credit: NASA TV)

When did Michael Hopkins fly on the SpaceX Crew Dragon?

Hopkins was commander on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, humanity’s first private crewed spacecraft to travel to the ISS. It launched November 15, 2020. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft "Resilience," in recognition of the challenges that people have faced and overcome during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. 

"I think one of the great things about human spaceflight and what NASA has done this year is it is a good news story and it is a story of bringing people together to accomplish something amazing," he told Florida Today. "I'm hoping that this is something that can inspire the nation, inspire the world and give everybody something to smile about."

Hopkins is currently Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 64.

Additional resources

  • Here is a video of Mike Hopkins talking about the Crew-1 mission.
  • Watch SpaceX Crew-1 launch its mission to the International Space Station in October 2020.
  • Keep up to date with Hopkins’ adventures on the ISS and back on Earth by following his Twitter.

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