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White Bear Lake native will be on SpaceX flight to International Space Station


Josh Casada has been preparing and waiting for years to launch into space. In about a month, it will be aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, bound for the International Space Station.

As a pilot on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission, the original White Bear Lake is one of four crew members who will spend six months in space as part of the expedition. Casada, who showed up around Tuesday morning, spoke to the kids attending summer camp at the St. Paul Bell Museum. Campers fill the front rows of the museum’s planetarium, campers in shorts and brightly colored T-shirts ask the astronaut questions about training, new space innovations, and the planet he’d like to visit.

“While I am, of course, excited to learn from our friends at NASA, I am even more excited to see so many of you who have an interest in science,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who attended in person, told the group about the students. “You are truly our next generation of engineers, inventors, chemists, biologists, paleontologists, and astronauts.”

SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, is collaborating with NASA on manned space flights, including the upcoming Cassada mission. The two entities are also aiming, through the Artemis program, to land the first woman and first people of color on the moon before the decade ends.

“The last time we went to the moon was half a century ago, it was the Apollo program. We’re now in the Artemis program,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who attended Tuesday’s event virtually. “And Josh is the epitome of this new type of astronaut, Gil Artemis.”

Cassada attended Birch Lake Elementary School and graduated from White Bear Lake Area High School. He continued his studies for degrees in physics from Albion College in Michigan and the University of Rochester in New York.

Later, Cassada joined the US Navy and became a test pilot. He has logged over 4,000 flying hours in more than 45 different aircraft.

In June 2013, Cassada was selected to be one of eight members of NASA’s 21st class of astronauts. Casada spent two years in training, developing skills such as water and wilderness survival, robotics, and the Russian language. When he graduated in 2015, he worked in various positions on Earth helping space missions.


On Tuesday, Casada told students that his favorite part of astronaut training is spacewalking — a skill he practices by wearing a spacesuit in a pool with a team of divers putting weights on it to control buoyancy.

The training is mentally challenging, he said, but walking in an atmosphere very similar to outer space is “amazing.” Immediately after the event, Casada said, he headed to the Houston Training Center in Texas to practice spacewalking again.

“I kind of feel like I’m in science camp myself,” he said. “I don’t think we’re doing very different things than you guys are doing this week – maybe you’re learning new concepts and doing some experimenting.”

One student asked Casada, “If you had the right technology, what planet would you travel to?”

Casada’s answer? a land.

“We have to do what we can to protect it,” he said.


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