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NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins To Deliver Commencement Address

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NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins

NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins gives a presentation about his experiences in space on May 16, 2014 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Sean Powers/WILL)

NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins delivers the commencement address on Saturday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Hopkins graduated from the U of I in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. He was aboard with the International Space Station for six months until his return to Earth in March.

He said he hopes his experiences will be helpful to this year’s graduating class.

“None of this came easy,” Hopkins explained. “None of it was handed to me, and I think hopefully there’s some lessons learned that I had as I’ve gone through my career and my experiences that I can share with them that they’ll find useful.”

NASA retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011, and has relied on Russia to carry astronauts to space.

Russian officials recently said the country plans to quit the Space Station partnership after 2020, a move that could kill the program.

Hopkins said 2020 is a long way off, and in the meantime, he said, the countries' space agencies continue to work together as usual.

“Obviously there’s some political tension between the two countries at the moment, but fortunately at the level of the space program, we’re still working together very well," he said. "I think that will continue. So, we’ll see what’ll happen beyond 2020.”

Hopkins said he wants to return to space, and plans to work to help NASA again send astronauts to orbit from American soil within the next few years.