Maine Native Prepares for Space Mission 

Chris Cassidy has a longer commute to work than most. On March 28th, the York native and NASA astronaut will leave the planet for his mission at the international space station. “It’s really exciting for us as a crew to be here because it means we are really close to flight.”Cassidy will depart from Kazakhstan in a Soyuz vessel, alongside Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, before arriving at the orbiting laboratory. He will spend nearly six months away from his wife and kids, for a mission he’s been training two years for, and he won’t be short of company. “The possibility exists for us to see those vehicles and participate in the capture or the rendezvous and the capture and then watch those vehicles head off on their missions.””You see this light sort of object and you kind of wonder, is that a star but no it is bright and all of a sudden you can watch it across the sky and then it just gets to a point where it disappears. Which is really neat to think about, that there are human being up there, there have been for years now.”Jennifer Therrien and Susan Jonason work at Bangor’s challenger learning center. Their popular fieldtrip destination provides simulated space missions for elementary and high school students. They recently joined us for a conversation with the astronaut. “We would like Chris to know what an inspiration he is, whether he knows it or not, to the students that we work with because we mention him in all of our missions and programs.””For anyone to be able to have a model right in front of them of someone actually doing what you are pretending to do, so to speak, someone who is actually doing it. You can’t compare that to any other experience.” For the former U.S. Navy Seal, his experience in space is not unlike previous missions on earth.”To be honest I think time on a submarine is similar. You can’t really go outside. If you did need to go outside you’ve got to put on all this gear and go through depressurization and deal with pressure differentiations and closing hatches so you don’t flood the whole submarine. There’s no amount of training or prior experience that can prepare one for the most difficult challenge. “I’ll get to see my wife and kids a few times on the two or three days before launch. On launch day we will say goodbye in the hotel. I am sure it will be emotional for all of us, with all kinds of emotions excitement, nerves, pride, happiness, sadness: all rolled up into one day and as you can imagine it can be quite an emotional event. Cassidy is scheduled to return to earth on September 11th. One of his first missions upon returning will be visiting with the astronauts of tomorrow at the challenger learning center. Cassidy hopes to visit Bangor in the late fall or early part of 2014.