As a kid, all Josh Cassada wanted to do was play Major League Baseball.
But when his fastball topped out at about 80 miles per hour and it became clear that was as fast as it would ever be, he knew he had to start looking for another job.
Combining his two passions for physics and aviation, Cassada set out on a path that will now eventually take him to outer space.
The 1995 Albion College graduate will travel to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission as early as next week. NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting a launch no earlier than noon on October 5, with a tentative backup date of October 7. NASA is also considering October 6, October 8 and October 9 as possible launch dates.
Launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been repeatedly delayed by Hurricane Ian.
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“Whenever one’s dream comes true it’s very exciting,” Nicolle Zellner, chair of the physics department at Albion College, said in a release. “Josh has said from the beginning that this is what he wanted to do and he’s doing it.”
The mission will be a first-time spaceflight for Cassada and two other crew members, he explained during a NASA press conference in August. The Crew-5 flight will carry NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who will serve as mission commander, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who will serve as mission specialists.
As pilot, Cassada will be responsible for the spacecraft’s systems and performance. Aboard the International Space Station, he will serve as a flight engineer.
“What’s so great about this is that we’re doing it for something bigger than us,” Cassada said during the Aug. 4 press conference. “Those three first-time flyers, we’re bringing a lot of energy to the International Space Station.”
Cassada received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Albion College and his doctorate is from the University of Rochester, where he conducted experimental high-energy physics research at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Cassada then became a naval aviator and participated in two operational deployments before becoming an instructor at the US Naval Test Pilot School. NASA selected him as an astronaut in 2013.
Cassada said he looks forward to participating in a number of scientific experiments in space alongside Mann, Wakata and Kikina. He also hopes to catch his crewmates up to speed with his plethora of 1980s movie references.
“We’re going to watch a lot of ’80s movies, and especially (the 1985 Chevy Chase comedy) ‘Fletch’ every Friday, to make sure (Nicole) has some of the jokes I’ve been doing over the last decade.” Cassada said smiling.
As a physicist, Cassada said he is also very excited to work with the Cold Atom Laboratory, which is used to study the behavior of atoms at cold temperatures.
“This is one that is very near and dear to my heart,” Cassada said. “But we’re really lucky, we can do all kinds of science (up there).”
For more information about the Crew-5 mission, visit nasa.gov.
Contact reporter Greyson Steele at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: G_SteeleBC