Northern Colorado Astronauts Safely Make It to Space Station

Crew-4 astronauts, from left, Jessica Watson, mission specialist; Bob Hines, pilot; Kjell Lindgren, commander and Samantha Cristoforetti, mission specialist, are positioned inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Freedom. Crew-4 launched to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:52 a.m. EDT on April 27, 2022. (Photo credit SpaceX)

Commander of Crew is a CSU Alum, Joined by Boulder Native

A Colorado State University alumnus made his second trip to the International Space Station, along with the first Black Woman to live on the Space Station.

Kjell Lindgren is commander of the mission, he earned a master’s degree in cardiovascular physiology from CSU in 1996. Jessica Watkins, a Boulder native, is mission specialist.

The pair are joined by two others (Bob Hines, pilot and Samantha Cristoforetti, mission specialist) as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 on Freedom.

“This is our fourth crew rotation flight – it’s kind of hard to believe,” said Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It seems like Demo-2 was just yesterday, and it’s exciting to be here. We had a really clean countdown today – the Falcon 9 rocket did great; the Dragon vehicle did great. It was great to see the crew get in. You could tell they were excited to start their flight off.”

Launching alongside the crew in the Dragon capsule is an investigation that seeks to restore meaningful vision to people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. The Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing experiment tests the manufacturing of artificial retinas or retinal implants in microgravity, where it is expected their production could be optimized.


About Kjell Lindgren

PHOTO DATE: 08-27-14
LOCATION: Building 8, Room 183 – Photo Studio
SUBJECT: Portrait of Expedition 44/45 astronaut Kjell Lindgren in EMU

Dr. Kjell N. Lindgren was selected by NASA in 2009.  He spent most of his childhood abroad and returned to the U.S. to complete his education and earn a Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Colorado. He earned a master’s degree in cardiovascular physiology from CSU in 1996. He is board-certified in emergency medicine.  After serving as the Deputy Crew Surgeon for STS-130 and Expedition 24, he was selected as an astronaut in June 2009 as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.  Dr. Lindgren flew on Expedition 44/45 and logged 141 days in space.  He participated in two spacewalks and in more than a hundred different scientific experiments. Lindgren is currently serving as commander on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station, which launched on April 27.


About Jessica Watkins

JESSICA WATKINS (Photo courtesy

Jessica Watkins was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.  Watkins reported for duty in August 2017 and completed two years of training as an astronaut candidate.  The Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University, and a Doctorate in Geology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  Dr. Watkins conducted her graduate research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth.  She has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was a science team collaborator for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.  Watkins is currently serving as a mission specialist on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station, which launched on April 27.


Scientific Research in Space

Lindgren said one of the scientific experiments the crew is conducting on this mission involves examining how weightlessness affects wound healing in a rodent model, “which brings me back to my CSU days as well, given CSU’s reputation as a veterinary training center.” He said the crew will also be growing edible plants, as he did on his last mission.

“And that is an amazing thing, to plant it, then to watch it grow to the size that it can be harvested, to recognize that this could be a really important part of space flight as a source of food and even as part of our environmental control system,” he said. “To see a little part of what science fiction has described for a long time … and then to have that as part of a meal was a lot of fun.”

Lindgren acknowledged that he has more responsibility and pressure serving as commander of this mission compared to his first trip to space, but he said his crewmates are fantastic. This marks the first trip to the space station for Boulder native Watkins and American pilot Hines. It is the second mission for European Space Agency astronaut Cristoforetti of Italy.


Team Chemistry

Lindgren said the group has had several opportunities to bond, including sea kayaking off the coast of Washington state.

“That team spirit, crew cohesion, is one of those things you can’t really train for,” he said, adding that it’s exciting to “serve on a team that inspires the next generation and shows what is possible when we work together in an international partnership.”

Lindgren said the mission patch, which is worn on the shoulder of their uniforms and features a dragonfly, was designed by his daughter.

“We wanted to reconnect with the earth with our patch,” he explained. “The dragonfly is a beautiful and agile flyer, and in many cultures is a sign of good fortune.”

“Space travel feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so to be able to do it a second time seems surreal,” said Lindgren, adding that his pre-flight traditions include launching model rockets on the beach with his family.

“What an amazing time to be part of NASA,” Lindgren concluded. “I feel like we won the lottery. We have programs that are figuring out how to get our astronauts to the moon, with Mars in our sights. There used to always be a running joke that Mars is 30 years away, and I have felt that horizon shrink.”



Docking at ISS

Upon their arrival at the space station, the Crew-4 astronauts were greeted by NASA astronauts of the Expedition 67 crew already on board. During their six-month stay aboard the microgravity laboratory, Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti have joined the Expedition 67 crew in conducting a number of science and research investigations.

7:40 pm, April 27 – Docking of the SpaceX/Crew-4 Crew Dragon “Freedom” to the International Space Station (hatch opening was scheduled at approximately 9:30 pm EDT)

Here is the live video feed (Watch as they docked):

Excerpts of this article and quotes were provided by Colorado State University (Jeff Dodge) and NASA (

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