Call Mike Hopkins (front row, center) the first astronaut of the post-space shuttle era. He and his fellow members of the class of 2009 (nicknamed “The Chumps”) came along too late to fly NASA’s space plane. Hopkins, who was just 12 when STS-1 launched in 1981, will be the first in his class to go to the space station instead, as the flight engineer for Expeditions 37/38, scheduled for September 2013. Why was he picked first? His pre-NASA resumé couldn’t have hurt: Academic All-American football player at the University of Illinois (defensive back), Air Force test pilot, and assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.