MIT alumni are everywhere—more than 126,000 spread across at least six continents. And beginning Thursday, March 28, PlanetMIT can add another virtual pushpin to its expanding community map: outer space.
NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy SM ’00, P ’16 will join two Russian cosmonauts on the Expedition 35 mission that will travel from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT. The journey, scheduled for six hours, marks the first time that a crew-carrying spacecraft will dock to the ISS within hours of launching. (Most flights general take at least two days to reach the station.)
Upon arrival at the ISS, the team will join three waiting astronauts for a 168-day journey that, according to NASA, will include several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science. Expedition 35 is scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 11, 2013.
The March 28 voyage will be Cassidy’s second trip to space. As part of the 2009 NASA mission STS-127, Cassidy was designated the 500th person in space. He logged more than 376 space hours, including more than 18 hours of extra-vehicular activity during three spacewalks. That mission featured a record 13 astronauts representing all five ISS partners—U.S, Russia, Canada, Europe, and Japan.
Cassidy, a U.S. Navy commander and former Navy SEAL, served during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he was awarded two Bronze Stars. He is one of nearly three dozen MIT alumni astronauts, a list that includes Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63, the Apollo 11 pilot for the first manned lunar landing, and Rusty Schweickart ’56, SM ’63, who piloted the Apollo 9′s first manned flight.
The MIT Club of South Texas will provide updates of Cassidy throughout his journey. NASA Television is covering pre-flight activities throughout the week and will provide live coverage of the launch beginning at 2:30 p.m. EDT on March 28.
Good luck and safe travels, Commander Cassidy!