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University of Alabama grad enjoys the “view of Earth” aboard the International Space Station

GMT122_15_40_Jessica Watkins_Rugby ball in cupola
GMT122_15_40_Jessica Watkins_Rugby ball in cupola

A University of Alabama graduate is into his second month aboard the International Space Station. Bob Hines got his master’s degree in aerospace engineering at UA in 2010. He flew to the space station in late April aboard a commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Hines and his crewmates work twelve hour days doing experiments aboard the station. He told WBUR and WTHM-TV some of the best views of Earth are at night.

“It’s really interesting because at night you get to see all the city lights, and that’s you see where the people all,” Hines observed. “It’s absolutely beautiful at night, too. It never gets old looking out the window.”

Hines was also part of space history with the arrival of a second type of commercial spacecraft to the orbiting station. The unmanned Boeing capsule, called the Starliner, blasted off aboard an Alabama built Atlas five rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Hines helped unload cargo from the new craft, which may soon be carrying astronauts to and from the station. The UA grad says it’s all part of his twelve hour workdays that start with a morning briefing with science teams on Earth.

“Sometimes we’re working together, sometimes we’re working individually,” said Hines. “And, we’re conducting one of two hundred and fifty or more experiments that are on station at any given time. And, so we’re working those all day long, or schedules are very packed.”

Hines is the second University of Alabama graduate to go to orbit. James Kelly, UA class of 1996, flew twice aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle. His second mission was the first Shuttle to fly after the 2003 Columbia accident, where seven astronauts were killed during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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