Central Otago will play host to a genuine spaceman in April, organised by the Otago Museum.
Astronaut Colonel Michael S. Hopkins spent about six months on the International Space Station from September 2013, after being launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
During his time on the space station, Col Hopkins conducted about 200 science experiments, and did two spacewalks to change a degraded pump module.
He also worked with strength and conditioning coach Mark Guilliams to develop specially-designed workouts in orbit.
Speaking after his return, Col Hopkins said it was an incredible experience being in space.
“In the not too distant future, maybe we will see opportunities for all of us to go up,” he said.
One experiment he did was growing food in space, Col Hopkins said.
“I took up a few seeds with me, and I tried to grow some of those, I had pumpkin seeds, I had sunflower seeds, and it was pretty amazing – it was very easy to germinate them and get them to start growing, but I didn’t have quite the right light, the right food,” Col Hopkins said.
He noted other experiments to grow food in space had fared much better, and he would be very comfortable eating food grown in space.
“I think if we go to Mars, I think that will be one of the things that will help with that mission,” he said.
Col Hopkins will visit the Otago Central Interplanetary Cycle Trail, seeing how the solar system has been scaled one hundred million to one along the trail.
He then will open an exhibition of astrophotography in Naseby, before presenting two public talks, one in Alexandra and one in Queenstown.
Otago Museum director of programmes and science engagement Craig Grant said the museum was funding the visit to Central Otago and the Catalyst Trust was providing accommodation in Queenstown.
“We see it as part of getting the Otago public exposed to science and seeing what it can do,” Mr Grant said.
Space Central Tour
COLONEL MICHAEL HOPKINS
Wednesday, April 11
10.30am: Opening of Naseby Night Skies Astrophotography Exhibition at Naseby Town Hall
1.30pm: Public Talk by Col Hopkins at Alexandra Community Centre and Memorial Theatre, hosted by the Centre for Space Science Technology