Hometown Hero Launches a Dream

By Melanie Chapman | mchapman@kolr10.com

Published 09/26 2013 08:33PM

Updated 09/26 2013 08:50PM

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – A man who grew up in the Ozarks is in outer space right now, proving dreams can come true.

Students at Osage High School watched as alumnus Mike Hopkins launch his dream.

“Seeing how far he’s gone and what he’s doing now, it’s kind of inspiring to keep going,” says Kayln Declue, a senior at the school.

44-year-old Mike “Hoppy” Hopkins has come a long way since growing up on a Richland farm.

He graduated from Osage in 1987 and today he is an U.S. Air Force Colonel and a NASA Astronaut. His rocket launched from Kazakhstan and he is scheduled to spend 5 and a half months at the International Space Station.

“It means everything to us,” says Principal Mike Williams. “It’s hard to imagine. It’s a little surreal that we have a graduate who was not only accepted in the astronaut program in 2009, but he is actually the first astronaut in his class to go to space.”

Mike knew since he was a teenager that he wanted to be an astronaut and he spent decades making that dream come true.

Students showed their support for Mike at the high school auditorium, cheering him on his mission before taking off. He recorded a surprise message to let them know he is thinking of them.

“We reach out to the kids and people and really encourage them to get into the math and sciences,” he says in a NASA feed. “But, more importantly to pursue their dreams and something they are passionate about.”

Mike wants everyone to know the sky is the limit.

Senior Zach Perkins is pursing his dream to be an aerospace engineer and fly for the Air Force. Mike is his inspiration.

“It’s kind of like seeing hopefully myself in the future,” says Perkins. “It’s super exciting. It kind of inspires me to push hard in my goals.”

Fellow NASA astronaut Scott Tingle was a member of Mike’s 2009 class. He watched his best friend from Earth and told the student body NASA launched a true hometown hero.

“We are all very proud of him,” says Capt. Tingle. “He carries our hopes and our dreams. He wanted me to relay to Osage that he’s very proud to come from Osage and he is thinking of you all the way up and all the way down.”

Hopkins’ mission focuses on human health and physiology. He will collect data to help scientists understand how the human body changes shape in space.

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