September 21, 2017 08:27 AM
An astronaut with Minnesota ties is circling the Earth during a once-in-a-lifetime mission.
Mark Vande Hei, a graduate of Benilde-St. Margaret High School and St. John's University, is part of NASA's latest expedition to the International Space Station.
He'll help conduct some of the agency's latest studies during his six-month mission.
Vande Hei arrived at the ISS last week on board a Soyuz capsule with two fellow crew members. He is part of NASA's Expedition 53 and 54. While on board, he and other crew members will conduct a variety of experiments designed to help people on the ground as well as in space.
Vande Hei admits that as the rookie on the mission it's taking some time to get his "space legs" under him. He's quickly getting used to working in a zero-gravity environment.
In addition to adjusting to life in space, he has been busy interacting with people back on Earth, including students at a Pine River-Backus school who asked him many questions about life as an astronaut.
"(Becoming an astronaut is) a hard thing to achieve," Vande Hei said. "Very many people want to do it and very few get the opportunity. But regardless, you can be a success if you do something you enjoy doing, so the path is something that's successful, not just the final destination."
Vande Hei knows the work he's doing now will bring big benefits down the road.
"Space flight is a rare commodity, and being able to pass on what you learn to other people is very important," he said.
Vande Hei and his crew have a few space walks planned in the coming weeks. They'll return to Earth next February.
Updated: September 21, 2017 08:27 AM
Created: September 20, 2017 04:41 PM
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