It’s not a typical afternoon at work when you answer the phone and hear, "Hey, Dr. Neal. It's Kjell Lindgren calling from the International Space Station." Thus began a 15-minute surprise call from the ISS Expedition 44-45 NASA astronaut. Lindgren just wanted to say that he had with him the Museum flag and Gemini IV patch that he borrowed to take in his personal preference kit. He had unpacked them and shot some photos in the cupola for us. "I'm looking forward to bringing those back to you once I get back from my mission," he said.
We had a lively conversation about his onboard activities, upcoming spacewalk, and appearance in a program here next spring. As a teenager, Lindgren lived in Burke, Virginia, where his parents still reside, and he is a graduate of Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax. Like many astronauts, especially those local to our Museum, he has enjoyed visiting us often—so much so that he wanted to have a memento of the Museum with him in orbit. An extravehicular activity (EVA) specialist, he also asked to borrow a memento of Ed White's first spacewalk 50 years ago. My colleagues and I swung into action to select the items, prepare a loan agreement, and get them to Houston to be packed before he left for final mission preparations in Russia. He launched on July 22 and is due back in late December. "Things are going great up here ... I hope you are doing well and enjoying fall in the DC area, and I look forward to catching up with you soon," he told me. I replied, "Thanks for calling, Kjell. We watch you pass overhead every now and then, and we look forward to welcoming you back. Take care."