SEAL Cmdr. Chris Cassidy was one of the first Americans on the ground in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He led boarding teams in the Persian Gulf. And now, he’s in the former Soviet Union.
But that’s just the beginning of his next mission — one that makes trips across the globe seem like a walk to the corner store.
Cassidy will serve as a flight engineer for a three-man crew aboard a Soyuz spacecraft set to launch March 29 from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station, where the crew will stay until mid-September. It’ll be the second trip to space for Cassidy, who made three spacewalks in July 2009 as a crew member of the space shuttle Endeavour.
He told UniverseToday.com that his war-zone experience informs his moves as part of a space crew.
“What I know from combat in the Navy, there’s a sort of calmness that comes over people who are well-trained and know what to do,” he said. “Muscle memory kicks in, and it’s not until after the thing is over that you realize what you went through.”
Cassidy, 43, was selected for NASA service in 2004 and completed astronaut training in 2006, according to his astronaut bio. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1993 and earned a master’s degree in ocean engineering from MIT in 2000. He’s earned two Bronze Stars, according to Navy personnel records: One came with a “V” device and a Presidential Unit Citation from early in the Afghanistan War for his role in an operation in the caves of Zharwar Kili.
Here’s some video of Cassidy and his crewmates leaving Star City, Russia (longtime site of cosmonaut training) for Kazakhstan.
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The Naval service has had a prominent role in space since the beginnings of human space flight. It’s even more appropriate that CDR Cassidy, now a NASA aviator, is not from Naval Aviation, in that today’ missions in space are complex, prolonged expeditions in a “shipboard” environment. The Navy’s been there for a long time. Our seafaring skills will be very useful as we become a spacefaring nation.