CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – He’s an entrepreneur, a professor at UNC’s business school, and now, an astronaut.

Just days after launching into space onboard a Blue Origin rocket, Jim Kitchen is back home in the Triangle. He sat down with CBS 17’s Maggie Newland to reflect on the incredible experience.

For Jim Kitchen, it was the trip of a lifetime.

“When I was a little boy, I sat on my mom‘s lap and dreamed of being an astronaut,” he recalled. He says he thought of that moment before launching into space on a Blue Origin rocket.

“Zero to 2300 miles an hour in like two minutes. That acceleration just doesn’t stop,” he said of the ascent. “Then we get to space.”

For three unforgettable minutes, the crew floats weightless. “That, for me, is when time stood still,” he said.

It was a journey unlike any other, even for a man who’s seen 193 countries. “Having traveled the world and then being able to see this beautiful borderless planet from space, that that was moving; it was emotional,” Kitchen explained.

WNCN photo/Maggie Newland

He used his time in space to show support for Ukraine. “I let the American and Ukrainian flags go when they were suspended in space, and it was really it was really a powerful moment,” he added.

The trip wasn’t solely serious, though. He also brought stickers for his students, mementos, and during a big week for UNC basketball, a basketball signed by Dean Smith and Michael Jordan.
“I think of it as it brought me luck, and maybe it’s bringing the Tar Heels luck,” Kitchen said

Back on earth, his flight suit and a model of the rocket that took him to space join pictures and souvenirs from the other countries he’s visited, along with a banner numbered 194.

“One of the messages I teach my students is there anything is possible And to push through boundaries, and space is the ultimate boundary” he said.

“You’ve been to 193 countries was this the ultimate experience,” CBS 17 asked Kitchen.

He replied, “So far.”