Normally a day of little to no significance, this year Oct. 11 holds special meaning for one local family — the Hagues — as they get ready today to celebrate quite the accomplishment of one of their own.
Family member Nick Hague, who is formally of Garden City and Hoxie and spent part of his formative years in Peabody, will have blasted off from Kazakhstan on a mission to the International Space Station in the early morning hours Thursday (around 3:30 a.m. local time). This marks Hague's first spaceflight since being selected as an astronaut with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2013, and his relatives have gathered in his former hometown to witness the momentous occasion — one that's been a long time coming.
"He wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was in kindergarten or even younger. He actually made a little book for my parents when he was little and it said 'when I grow up I want to be an astronaut,' so I know it's something he always wanted to do," said Hague's aunt, Roxanne Hague-Mann.
"I think he's made our entire family proud because he set out to do this years and years and years ago," said cousin (and Harvey County Commissioner) Randy Hague, "and, by gosh, he's going to do it."
Family embers and friends gathered at The Coneburg Grill and Pub in Peabody early this morning to witness the realization of Nick's dreams, watching from liftoff to docking at the ISS to the opening of the hatch — including one of Nick's 2013 NASA classmates, Victor Glover Jr., who will be on hand to explain what is going on and will also be speaking at the Peabody schools this afternoon. Roxanne said the plan is to repeat the festivities in the evening as well.
Roxanne helped organize the watch party and will be coming to the gathering from Detroit — as only a handful of immediate family members were able to travel over to Kazakhstan and witness the launch in person.
While Randy noted there is some general anxiety, the family as a whole is excited to see Nick take off on this six-month mission to participate in research investigations to advance scientific knowledge of Earth, space, physical science and more — the first in his class to get that opportunity. NASA has also been great at keeping the family in the loop, Roxanne said, providing a liaison to keep the family informed via email and offering multiple communication opportunities.
Previously, Roxanne said she did get the chance to speak with Nick at a family wedding last summer and learned a little about his rigorous training and schedule (with nearly every minute planned out in preparation for the mission) — including the work done in the various countries involved in the ISS, which will be crucial towards the end of the mission as Nick and his partner (cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin) will be left manning the ISS on their own for a short time.
"They have to know how to use all the equipment from all the different countries," Roxanne said.
Communicating with Nick once he is on board the ISS will be a little trickier, as Roxanne said that had to be scheduled out before departure — though it has been arranged for Nick to conference with the Peabody schools (as well as his alma mater, Hoxie) at some point during his mission.
Hoping to share photos from today's watch party (including those of the special jackets and patches being made), Roxanne did note the family will have the chance to communicate by email and plans to sending up some images showing their support and pride in Nick's accomplishment.
"I just wish my parents could be here to see it. They knew how much he really wanted to be an astronaut," Roxanne said. "It's really thrilling; it's exciting."
For more information on Nick's mission, visit www.nasa.gov.