A Visit From NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren


Photo by Devon Rudolph. Lindgren posing with his mural at Robinson Secondary. “I’m so grateful for Robinson,” Lindgren stated. “It gave me a foundation – a launchpad – for my dreams and trajectory that has come full circle so that I’m able to share with you all today.”

On March 31, 2023, NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren visited his alma mater, Robinson Secondary School. He was joined on stage by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson. These individuals shared with the Robinson community that anyone can do what they put their mind to and emphasized that hard work pays off. Lindgren, who graduated in the Class of ‘91, said “the three things that make the impossible possible: hard work, teamwork, and kindness. Those are the things that I feel that have made the impossible possible in my life.”

Lindgren was born in Taipei, Taiwan, but grew up mostly in the United Kingdom and attended high school in the United States. As a child, he constantly read science fiction and comics about traveling to space, so he always knew that he wanted to become an astronaut. “I’m so grateful for Robinson,” Lindgren stated. “It gave me a foundation – a launchpad – for my dreams and trajectory that has come full circle so that I’m able to share with you all today.” After graduating from Robinson, he entered the United States Air Force Academy and joined the Air Force Parachuting Team, “Wings of Blue,” to achieve his dream. While Lindgren was there, he was an instructor and member of the Air Force Academy’s National Championship Parachuting Team. He graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in biology with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. 

A year later, Lindgren obtained a Master of Science (MS) degree in cardiovascular physiology from Colorado State University and completed cardiovascular countermeasure research at NASA’s Space Physiology Lab in Silicon Valley, Calif. In 2002, he received a Doctorate of Medicine (MD) from the University of Colorado. A few years later, he completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) at the University of Texas Medical Branch and began to work at Johnson Space Center. In 2008, he completed a residency in aerospace medicine. Lindgren earned the title of doctor for completing his degree. Medical school allowed Lindgren to become a flight surgeon where he was then able to support the International Space Station (ISS) training in Star City, Russia and Ukraine. He also served as the Deputy Crew Surgeon for STS-130 and Expedition 24 in the astronaut corps.

In 2009, Lindgren was selected as one of the nine members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. After completing two years of training, it was determined he would handle technical duties in the Spacecraft Communicator (CAPCOM) branch, where he served as the lead CAPCOM on Expedition 30, and the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) branch. Six years later, he flew on Expedition 44/45 and spent 141 days in space, from July 2015 to December 2015. The crew consisted of himself along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui launching on the Antares from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They joined the Expedition 44 crew of Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly on the ISS. During those 141 days, Lindgren participated in two spacewalks and completed over a hundred scientific experiments for research in human physiology, physics, and development of technology. One of the experiments conducted was the ‘Veggie’ lettuce experiment, which was the first time a U.S. crew ate a vegetable that was grown in orbit.

In April 2022, Lindgren served as commander of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station, which returned back to Earth in October 2022. This was the first flight for the Crew Dragon vehicle ‘Freedom’ spacecraft and fourth flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew operational flight in which it spanned 170 days in space. During this mission, investigations on how to grow vegetables in space and if living in microgravity could affect one’s hearing were held. Lindgren also served as a flight engineer for Expedition 67/68 while on the ISS. He has spent a cumulative total of 311 days in space over the course of his two missions and is currently serving as the Flight Operations Directorate (FOD) Deputy Director. 

The assembly welcomed 500 students from the Robinson Community to attend and listen to what Lindgren had to share about how he became a NASA astronaut and what it took for him to get there. Senator Tim Kaine spoke about how fortunate he is to be able to see the future of space travel and the differences that future generations can make. After concluding his speech, he introduced Bill Nelson, the current NASA Administrator. Nelson gave a walk through of the space exploration timeline and how technological advancements have allowed for the United States to continue to prosper during present times. He stated, “this is the golden age of spacecraft.”

At the assembly, there were a few students that had the chance to ask him questions as well as a photo opportunity after the assembly concluded. One question that was asked was “what’s something that no amount of training could have prepared you for when you went into space?” to which Lindgren responded jokingly, “using the bathroom for the first time [on the International Space Station].” To which a person in the audience asked “how do you go to the bathroom?” He responded with “that’s a whole other presentation,” but continued with “we have incredible training facilities – a mockup of the interior of the Space Station – and we get into our suits in a pool to provide neutral buoyancy to practice how to move around in the suit, how to use tools, and how to use equipment that we need. Every single one of those training iterations lasts the biggest change that we could experience in space and that is weightlessness. We kind of have to relearn all of those things – you get to the Space Station, everything is very familiar, you know how to use the procedures, how to use the tools, but now you’ve got to figure out how to do that floating.” 

Once the assembly concluded, he sat down with journalists to give more insight on his experiences. Lindgren stated, “there are so many unforgettable moments.” While he was working as a flight surgeon in Star City, Russia, he had gotten the call stating he’d be selected as an astronaut. “When I first learned that I’d been selected, I was working as a flight surgeon so to get that call while I was out there was an amazing thing,”he said. Lindgren shared another example of one of unforgettable moments of experiences as an astronaut was the first time he saw Earth from a low Earth orbit perspective, “I remember we were launching from the Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan and I’m looking out the window and see the bright, crescent arc of the horizon. [It’s] something I think all of us have seen pictures of but to see [it] with my own eyes.” The last experience he shared with journalists was seeing the Aurora Borealis from the ISS. “Something that always captures my imagination and gives me goosebumps is looking back at the Earth and seeing the Aurora. I’d never gotten to see it from the Earth [and] to see that from space – it’s like this rapidly undelaying band of neon green and purple and pink; it’s amazing,” said Lindgren.