|Above: Astronaut Chris Cassidy with a group of middle school students.|
|Above: Astronaut Chris Cassidy (center) shown with (left to right): Cindy Clouse, SCC director of institutional advancement, SCC student ambassadors Caitlyn Huff and Tiffany Russell, Cassidy, SCC President and CEO Dr. Jo Marshall, Jon Burlew, associate dean of humanities, fire arts and social sciences at SCC, and Bruce Gover, academic support dean at SCC.|
Hundreds of guests at Somerset Community College (SCC) were treated to an out-of-this-world experience as Astronaut Christopher J. Cassidy gave three presentations, reflecting on his time working at the International Space Station. Cassidys visit was arranged by the office of U.S. Congressman Harold Rogers as part of SCCs 50th Anniversary Speakers Series.
Cassidy, a Captain in the U.S. Navy who is currently in charge of the EVA branch within the NASA Astronaut office, has been in space twice. First, Cassidy was part of the STS-127, International Space Station Assembly Mission 2J/A, aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. In his second mission, Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin launched from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station for Expedition 35/36, lasting nearly six months.
So far during his NASA career, Cassidy has completed six spacewalks, totaling 31 hours, 14 minutes and has accumulated 182 days in space. The spacewalks, he said, were his favorite part of his trips.
During his presentation in Somerset, Cassidy said that he did not start out hoping to be an astronaut. Instead, he met astronaut and fellow U.S. Naval Academy graduate Bill Shepherd, who inspired him to pursue the calling. Cassidy was accepted as an astronaut in 2004 after serving ten years as a member of the U.S. Navy SEALs Team. He made four six-month deployments as a SEAL: two to Afghanistan, and two to the Mediterranean.
Getting selected is the most difficult part of becoming an astronaut, said Cassidy. Once you are selected, the training and support are in place to make you successful.
Cassidy said that when he launched for the first time, his first thought was, dont screw anything up. He said each day in space is very planned out and his first task was to take a photo of the foam intact as the rocket boosters detached. As he was doing that, he realized, hey, that's Earth behind me. Im here.
Looking out at the Earth from space gave Cassidy a new view of our responsibility as people, he said.
When you look out the window and see a mass of green, brown and blue; you see white mountain tops and blue vast oceans. It looks peaceful and fragile, yet you know the streets are bustling and busy and there is conflict in certain areas. But it gave me an appreciation that Earth is the spaceship for all seven billion of us. We need to take care of it as it takes care of us.
As far as movies that depict space, Cassidy said that Apollo 13 was right on the money, especially in capturing what it is like to live in the capsule, but others, such as Gravity were sensationalized. Cassidy said Gravity, though, particularly captured the details of the space station with acute precision.
In terms of the future of American space exploration, Cassidy said that he feels it is important for the U.S. to stay in the race.
Theres a great deal of national pride associated with the astronaut program, Cassidy said. Its important that we keep pushing forward.
Cassidys visit was the second distinctive presentation in the SCC 50th Anniversary Speakers Series, held to honor the colleges 50 years of educational excellence. Bruce Gover, academic support dean at SCC, assisted with arrangements for Cassidys visit. Gover said, just as NASA was conducting the first U.S. spacewalk in 1965 and fulfilling space-related promises, SCC was just beginning and was fulfilling our own promise of providing quality education to this community.
And perseverance, Cassidy said, is an important part of becoming an astronaut, as well as an important part of life.
The advice I always give is to be a good person, Cassidy said. Work hard. Dont give up. Hard things end. You have to persevere and anything can happen.
To learn more about SCCs 50th anniversary, visit scc50.org.