By STEVE GANEY
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — For Warrensburg City Manager Paula Hertwig-Hopkins, her recent trip to Russia and Kazakhstan was quite a journey.
Her stepson Michael Hopkins, however, was about to embark on a much more daunting trip. He was on his way to the International Space Station.
Hertwig-Hopkins spent 10 days traveling through Russia and Kazakhstan with other members of her family from Sept. 18-29 to see Michael, who was accepted into NASA’s astronaut 2009-2010 class, along with a Russian team to reach the ISS. She said the trip was fun and exciting but also exhausting.
“We were accompanied by Russian escorts a lot of the time. We went to a lot of pre-launch briefing sessions and scheduled meetings, but we got to do some sightseeing too, Red Square and the Kremlin.” Hertwig-Hopkins said.
Because the launch was scheduled for 3 a.m., most of their scheduled activities also took place in the late hours of the night.
“What little sleep we had, we got in the daytime,” Hertwig-Hopkins said.
She traveled to the Russian space program’s launch pad in Kazakhstan and got to see the massive rocket lifted into position. The morning of the launch, she said she was all nerves.
“I had a death grip on my daughter-in-law. We were standing on the edge of a field with Russian press and family members with other crew members,” Hertwig-Hopkins said. “We were only three-eighths of a mile away from the launch. We could see it, hear it, feel it. It was pretty awesome, and just surreal.”
She said Michael would be at the International Space Station for up to six months, tasked with a list of scientific experiments to complete in space. She said he is able to email from the ISS.
“Yesterday he told me it was a beautiful day in space. He was floating over Chile and Patagonia.”
Hertwig-Hopkins has returned to her duties as Warrensburg city manager, although she is working with staff to bring in an interim city manger to take over next January, when she will begin her fellowship with the National University of Odesa Law Academy in Odessa, Ukraine. She will be on unpaid leave until she returns as manager in August 2014.