At 5:02 p.m. Wednesday, the dream Kjell Lindgren has had since he was an 11-year-old reading science fiction novels came true. He launched into outer space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station, achieving his boyhood ambition and a goal he’d worked toward since his days at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County.
“I am attracted to the thrill of exploration, the promise of discovery, and I’m just plain excited about riding a rocket into space,” Lindgren said in a NASA interview.
He became at least the sixth Fairfax County public schools graduate to head to space and the first from Robinson, where he was a standout on the wrestling team in the 171-pound weight class and graduated at the top of his class in 1991.
In 1995, Lindgren graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in Mandarin Chinese. He didn’t slack off after the rigors of the service academy: Lindgren went on to earn three master’s degrees from three different schools. The first was a master’s in cardiovascular physiology from Colorado State University in 1996. After that was a master’s in health informatics from the University of Minnesota in 2006. Last came a master’s in public health from the University of Texas medical branch in Galveston, in 2007.
Oh, and on top of that he earned a medical degree from the University of Colorado in 2002 and is board certified in emergency and aerospace medicine.
Did we mention he’s also an Eagle Scout?
Lindgren is just the latest among a cadre of Fairfax County graduates who became astronauts and went into space. Other Fairfax alumni who left Earth include Pierre Thuot (Fairfax High School, class of 1973), Cady Coleman (Woodson High School, class of 1978), G. David Low (Langley High School, class of 1974), William Readdy (McLean High School, class of 1970) and Patrick Forrester (West Springfield High School, class of 1975).
To become an NASA astronaut, Lindgren was selected from a pool of more than 3,500 applicants to train as one of nine finalists. Aboard the International Space Station, he’ll join American Scott Kelly, who is serving a year in space. Together they’ll take part in medical experiments on how the body is affected by life in orbit.
He’ll also document his five-month experience on Instagram. In the days before the launch, Lindgren started posting pictures from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
“It ain’t Cocoa Beach,” Lindgren wrote on Instagram. But he noted it “isn’t a bad place to spend our last few days on Earth!”