The beauty of Fort Collins being a college town is the excitement and camaraderie that exists within the community as new students arrive as freshmen in the fall and four-year, short-term residents graduate and go out into the world each spring. And some may fall in love with the city enough to make it a more permanent home after graduation! Others return to their hometown or venture to all parts of the world, taking their memorable Fort Collins experiences along with them.
There are thousands of temporary residents who choose to call Fort Collins their home for four years as they attend Colorado State University. And we can understand why! During your late teens and early twenties in particular, this is an area full of activity — both indoors and outdoors. We are proud to claim all of these world-changers as they go on to make an impact in whatever professional field or geographical location they choose after they leave Fort Collins. However, there is one graduate in particular who has caught our attention as of late.
Kjell Lindgren is a NASA astronaut and flight engineer who recently returned from Expedition 45 to the International Space Station. He graduated with his masters of science in cardiovascular physiology (now biomedical sciences) from CSU in 1996.
During his 141 days in space between July 22 through December 11, Lindgren conducted and oversaw studies about the effects of spaceflight on the human body. The research on these health implications was necessary for NASA in preparation for a future mission to Mars, which is expected to last three years.
Although he graduated nearly 20 years ago, his impact while at CSU has not been forgotten. And Lindgren certainly hasn’t forgotten CSU and the city of Fort Collins. In fact, he made a certain phone call to someone who meant a lot to him during his time at CSU, professor and associate head of the biomedical sciences department, C.W. Miller — from space. That’s right. And the connection surprisingly was quite clear, which makes us wonder why calls so often get dropped from one state to another, and calls from outer space come through just fine. We suppose it is rocket science!
Lindgren told Miller how excited he was about his opportunity to view the world and to conduct experiments in space. Miller confessed he had to take a few deep breaths after the phone call, as he was surprised and honored that Lindgren chose to call him from space.
“I am a sentimental person, so when something like this happens — someone traveling at over 17,000 mph around the Earth and they think of little ol’ me, it gets to me,” Miller said. “It’s right up there with the birth of my daughters.”
We suppose this call was a no-brainer for Lindgren because he so enjoyed his time at CSU and in Fort Collins.
“I went to CSU because it has such a strong program in cardiovascular physiology,” Lindgren said. “A lot of what I learned at CSU I took with me when I went on to study space medicine.”
During Lindgren’s time at CSU, his main research interest revolved around the behavior of blood in the body when it doesn’t have gravity pulling it downwards. This research prepared him for space travel, as astronauts’ plasma moves upward into the chest and head without gravity. Lindgren’s thesis examined ways to keep more blood in the lower extremities, such as wearing thigh cuffs.
Although he was an extremely bright student according to Miller, Lindgren thrived in and enjoyed his time outside the classroom as well. He said coming to CSU after being at the U.S. Air Force Academy gave him the chance to experience a less-structured, traditional college environment.
“I loved being in Fort Collins,” he said. “I have very fond memories.”
Lindgren is a man of many talents, one of which we were very surprised to discover. He can play the bagpipes! And in NASA style, he displayed his talent from space, in honor of research scientist Victor Hurst who passed away in October 2015. This performance even got the attention of NPR.
Lindgren performs well in front of the camera, but is a master behind the camera as well. During his time in space he attracted a lot of attention with some out-of-this-world photography on his Instagram account. During no other time in history have we had the ability to see the daily life of those traveling some 250 miles above Earth — until now. Get a glimpse of the breathtaking views Lindgren saw each day, including this first photo that shows Fort Collins from a perspective you’ve never seen before…