Charlevoix man heading to International Space Station with SpaceX

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NASA astronaut Josh A. Cassada, (captain, U.S. Navy, Ph.D.) will be headed to the International Space Station next month.
NASA astronaut Josh A. Cassada, (captain, U.S. Navy, Ph.D.) will be headed to the International Space Station next month.

CHARLEVOIX — Northern Michigan will soon have a representative among the global contingent living aboard the International Space Station.

As the pilot for an upcoming SpaceX Crew-5 mission next month, Charlevoix’s Josh Cassada, 49, will be one of four astronauts to spend six months aboard the ISS.

The team represents a global collaboration, with two NASA astronauts — Cassada and Spacecraft Commander Nicole Mann — and also JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

Cassada is the husband of Charlevoix native Megan (Friedly) Cassada. Megan graduated from Charlevoix High School in 1993 and is the daughter of the late John and Marilyn Friedly. When they are in town, Megan and Josh reside on Belvedere Avenue with their two boys, Quinn and Graham, in a home that was originally purchased and restored by her parents.

Prior to his selection to join NASA in 2013, Cassada served as a test pilot in the U.S. Navy, and has over 3,500 hours in more than 40 aircraft, and 23 combat missions. In August 2018, he was selected for CTS-1, the first operational mission of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, but subsequently reassigned to SpaceX Crew-5.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree in physics from Albion College in 1995. He later earned a master of arts degree (in 1997) and a doctorate (in 2000) in physics with a specialty in high energy particle physics from the University of Rochester in New York.

While orbiting Earth aboard the ISS, Cassada will be conducting numerous experiments that, among other things, include a cold atom lab that enables insights into "quantum mechanics at a macroscopic scale."

In a press conference last week attended by the Courier, he spoke about his excitement for the experiments, saying, “We are really lucky. We get to do all kinds of science."

More: NASA blog on SpaceX Crew-5 mission

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When not in Charlevoix, the family resides in Clear Lake, Texas — a small community south of Houston that is home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

However, during an exclusive interview with the Courier, Cassada spoke fondly of the community that is his wife’s hometown, describing it as “our place.”

The family visits their Belvedere home as often as they can, traveling in a small plane they recently purchased that Cassada pilots.

Cassada said “we talk pretty openly about the risks involved” with his children regarding his job, while also saying anything worth doing isn’t going to be without risk.

He said their annual months-long summer visits to Charlevoix are part of the reason his children won’t take his six-month stint in space so hard.

“It happened accidentally ... when they are (in Charlevoix) and I couldn’t be up there for two months at a time ... during that time we chat like we are doing now,” said Cassada, referring to the Zoom interview.

“Now it’s a natural thing,” he said, adding that he will be able to communicate regularly to his children during his time in space on a video conference call.

The SpaceX Crew-5 is planned to be the fifth crewed operational NASA Commercial Crew flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft, which Cassada will be piloting.

The International Space Station is the largest modular space station currently in low Earth orbit. It is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada), according to NASA.

The ownership and use of the ISS is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements, according to NASA. The station serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics and other fields.

The mission is planned for launch in September.

Contact reporter Annie Doyle at adoyle@charlevoixcourier.com

This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Charlevoix man heading to International Space Station with SpaceX