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SEAL Cmdr. Chris Cassidy, a NASA astronaut, enjoys the view Aug. 7 from the International Space Station. (NASA)
More on Cassidy
Cassidy set to launch from Kazakhstan (With pre-launch video)
SEAL takes express ride to space station
Close shave for SEAL in space (With video Cassidy giving himself a floating haircut. Key quote: “I don’t think I’ve looked like this since Plebe Summer.”)
Recruiters say if you join the military, you can see the world. For Cmdr. Chris Cassidy, that is literally the case.
The Navy SEAL-turned-astronaut has a nice view from the International Space Station, where he has been serving since March.
It’s the 43-year-old’s second time in space — his first was in 2009 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. His typical day aboard the station includes science experiments, the occasional spacewalk and, yes, a fair amount of stargazing.
Before being selected for NASA in 2004, the Naval Academy grad spent 10 years serving on SEAL teams. Two weeks after 9/11, he put boots on the ground in Afghanistan, the first of two deployments there. His decorations include a Bronze Star with “V” device for heroism while operating in the caves of Zharwar Kili in Khost province.
Cassidy, who calls York, Maine, his hometown, is married with three children. He’s due back on Earth on Sept. 10.
The astronaut connected with Military Times (with a little help from mission control) on Aug. 20. Watch the video above.
Q. You’re up there representing the Defense Department. How would you say what you’re doing is advancing the U.S. military mission?
A. If you look at the astronaut office, we’re about half military, half civilian. So any given time you’ll have a military uniform-wearing astronaut up here. Not only from the United States, but my crewmate Luca Parmitano is an Italian air force officer and pilot. What the military brings is pretty substantial to being a good crewmate, an effective astronaut and understanding how to work in an operational environment because that’s what we have here is an operational environment.
Q. You mentioned your Italian crewmate. What other foreign countries are represented, and what specifically are you learning from them?
A. Myself and Karen Nyberg are NASA U.S. astronauts. Luca Parmitano is an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency, and we have three Russian cosmonauts, Pavel, Fyodor and Sasha. What we learn together is just good interaction, much like if you do a joint training exercise. What I’ve learned is that, internationally, we’re all training for the same mission, and we’re basically the same guys wearing slightly different uniforms and with different accents.
Q. What career advice would you offer to a service member looking to get into the space program?
A. Just keep on doing jobs and taking sets of orders that you’re satisfied with. Because when you do that you’ll tend to do them well, and you will enjoy your military career. During my interview process, I realized just how many really, really good people there are out there, and I just was really lucky to get picked. If I had continued on in my SEAL team career that would have been fine, too, because I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing there.
Q. Most of us here on Earth will never get a chance to do a spacewalk. Can you describe what that experience is like?
A. If you went to the top of a skyscraper and put your toes over the edge and leaned over, your brain would tell you ‘What are you doing? You’re crazy.’ That’s kind of the sensation that you have on your first spacewalk when you open the hatch. It only takes a couple minutes to realize you’re not going to fall. And then you start going to work. Every now and then I take in where I am, out with one hand on the port side of the space station, looking all the way down to the Earth and trying to capture that in my mind’s eye forever.