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NASA Astronaut prepares for space station mission marked by change

The International Space Station will reach an interesting moment in its history around the 20th anniversary of continuous human occupation due to the crew's commercial program.

In October 2020 (just before the anniversary of Nov. 2), two-time NASA space veteran Chris Cassidy will leave the orbiting complex in the Russian Union with recruits of Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin. The trio that make up Expedition 62/63 crew is expected to take off in April and stay about five months, although the dates are always on a busy schedule. Their journey will be one of the latest in the current model of space station action.

For now, NASA is sending its astronauts into orbit by purchasing space on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. This has been the case since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011 . NASA and its US commercial crew partners have been working for years to get the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft ready to transport astronauts. Technical, financial and programmatic problems have delayed this goal so far, but NASA hopes the vehicles will be ready in the coming months . The big question is when.

Related: International Space Station at 20: Photo Tour

Cassidy and his teammates may find themselves alone at some point in their mission, awaiting commercial vehicles for the crew to bring in another company. These vehicles may be ready and driven on the eve of the November anniversary – or then again, maybe not.

Cassidy said that the continuous occupation of the space station began in 1999 under the command of a SEAL counterpart, Bill Shepherd . And Cassidy said he would be in orbit until the eve of the anniversary. "We've been dating for 20 years and that's pretty cool," he said in an interview Thursday (November 7th).

Shepherd's mission marks a time of great change in the operation of the space station as well as that of Cassidy. Cassidy is (so far) the last NASA astronaut scheduled to fly the Union although they are expected to come even after the sales crew comes into play. NASA still wants its astronauts to have experience in Russian vehicles and vice versa.

At a live press conference earlier Thursday, however, Cassidy said his crew is simply focused on doing the best work that can change amid change and uncertainty, even if only three of them in the space station for a long time.

As crews usually do, the trio works closely to find humor even in the midst of preparing for a serious mission, as Cassidy said in an anecdote from training the day before the press conference. The astronauts worked in a virtual reality lab simulating a space path, along with a robotic operation. Cassidy asked his teammates how to say "clearance" in Russian as he wanted to talk about how much space there was between Canadarm2 and another subject.

"They told me one word and then another word," Cassidy recalled. "I also thought [I realized] that it was a" permit "for items for sale [in a store] and not a structure permit. Then we drift off and have some humor about how Andrew likes the sales items. He kept his face straight and said, "Guys, I'm busy here. Kill him." "

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy studies a space suit that leaks while European astronaut Luca Parmitano wears it for space travel after the incident.

(Credit: NASA)

two space fields During Miss floats of STS-127 space shuttles in 2009, his crew delivered the exhibited equipment to the International Space Station's Japan Experimental Module, completing two space lanes as part of a busy mission, but it was Expedition 35/36 in 2013 that brought its most

First, Cassidy and NASA teammate Tom Marshburn repaired ammonia leaks in May 2013 from the outside of the space station. The leak had threatened to deprive the orbital complex of vital coolant and required emergency response instructions sent from the ground for handling.

Two months later, Cassidy was working with the crew of the European Space Agency Luca Parmitano during a space trip, when the space astronaut's space suit suddenly leaked which filled Parmitano's helmet with water. In a potentially deadly situation, Parmitano could not speak because of the water. Cassidy relayed hand signals from him during pressure in the air unit, the entire space station crew and NASA mission control came together to bring Parmitano quickly, and the space path ended safely.

When asked in the interview what he learned from those experiences, Cassidy giggled, "Leaks are bad." Turning seriously, he said the real lesson is to continue to use his training as a Navy seal and NASA astronaut to be "ready for any unforeseen situation."

"You don't know what's the next weird thing that's going to happen, but we practice for all the weird situations you can think of," he said. The key to overcoming these emergencies is communication, he said, between

"This, in my opinion, makes NASA an effective team, just like an effective team in the business world," Cassidy said. "You do the basic things and you will succeed. This is the philosophy that I bring to this mission. "

At a press conference, Cassidy said that there has been no real change in the way astronauts have been training for space paths since arriving as a rookie astronaut in 2004. They continue to practice procedures in large NASA's Johnson Space Center, known as the Neutral Navigation Lab as well as in desk exercises and virtual reality. Space station astronauts typically train in common space travel and space skills. however, they are instructed on specific tasks closer to the date of their flight or when unforeseen situations occur.

Cassidy, however, indicated the upcoming Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer space paths as particularly interesting excursions. procedures for those space paths that use unique tools designed for a dark-matter tool that was not originally designed to be orbital repaired. According to a NASA statement the upcoming space paths are the most complex that the agency has undertaken since the Hubble Space Telescope's repair and upgrade last time in 2009.

Cassidy compares the complexity of the repair experience to disassemble part of the car's engine while wearing bulky gloves. "It's fun to see engineers think of some ideas and then turn it into a mechanical thing that we can practice," he said.

After his upcoming mission to space, Cassidy said he was not sure if he would be one of the astronauts asked to go to the moon. NASA will probably select its first astronaut teams [Artemis Artemis] in late 2020 or early 2021 to begin training for missions beginning with the planned landing for 2024, he said, and at that time he will completed space station flight and began a long restoration of health back to Earth. "I don't see myself in one of the original crews," he said, though he left open the possibility of future missions if the schedule worked out.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook .

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(Image Credit: All About Space)

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