A York County native will return to Earth late Wednesday night after his third trip into space.
Christopher Cassidy, 50, will depart from the International Space Station with Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner about 7:30 p.m. and touch down in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft near Dzhezhazgan in Kazakhstan before midnight, according to NASA.
Cassidy was scheduled to turn over the command of the space station to cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov on Tuesday afternoon.
His latest voyage into space began April 9, when arrived at the space station, where he was greeted by fellow Maine native Jessica Meir, who grew up in Caribou, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and astronaut Andrew Morgan. For a brief period, a third of all humans in space were from Maine. Meir, Skripochka and Morgan departed from the outpost on April 16.
Cassidy, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, considers York his hometown. He graduated from York High School, where he played basketball.
After graduating from York High School, Cassidy went on to study at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1989. He then moved on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a master’s degree in ocean engineering in 2000.
Cassidy spent 11 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, and he was deployed to Afghanistan two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He became a captain in 2014 and remains on active duty, according to NASA.
His career as an astronaut began in 2004 after he met fellow Navy SEAL and astronaut Bill Shepherd, who was commander of the first space station crew, according to the BDN archive. Cassidy was one of 11 people selected to join NASA’s 19th class of astronauts.
Cassidy’s first spaceflight was in 2009, when he left Earth aboard the space shuttle Endeavour for a 16-day mission and became the 500th person to enter space, according to NASA. His next spaceflight came in 2013, when he spent 182 days aboard the International Space Station. During his astronaut career, Cassidy has logged 10 spacewalks for a total of 54 hours and 51 minutes in the vacuum of space.
In 2015, Cassidy was named the nation’s chief astronaut, succeeding Robert L. Behnken. Cassidy held that post until June 2017, when he was replaced by Patrick G. Forrester and returned to normal flight status.
Cassidy is among at least three Maine natives who have made the extraordinary journey into space, the others being Meir and Charles O. Hobaugh, a Bar Harbor native who has made three spaceflights. Bridget Ziegelaar, a graduate of Old Town High School, is an operations manager for International Space Station Research Integration at NASA.
In September, Time magazine named Meir one of 2020’s most influential people.