The International Space Station only has one more year to go until it celebrates the 20th anniversary of uninterrupted human occupation due to the commercial crew program.
In October 2020, Chris Cassidy, NASA’s space veteran, will be leaving the orbiting complex accompanied by Russian astronauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin. This event will take place right before the anniversary on November 2. The trio, named the Expedition 62/63 crew, will arrive at the ISS in April, starting a five-month mission that ends in October. Their mission will be one of the last ones in the current pattern of ISS operations.
Currently, NASA astronauts are sent to orbit by purchasing seas on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. This has been the standard method ever since the space shuttle retired 8 years ago. NASA has been working on the Boeing Starliner for years, while SpaceX is developing the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Their goals have been delayed due to issues related to funding and programming. However, NASA is hoping to have spacecraft ready sometime in the following months.
There is a possibility that Cassidy and his crewmates will be alone in space for a while. In a news conference held a few days ago, Cassidy declared that they would stay focused on their mission even if it’s surrounded by several uncertainties.
Cassidy has been on two spaceflights in the past. The first one was in 2009 when his crew delivered the Japanese Experiment Module’s exposed facility to the ISS.
The second one took place in 2013, being the most memorable since he and his crewmates were tasked with repairing an ammonia leak on the outside of the space station. The next issue they faced was a spacesuit leak that filled crewmate Luca Parmitano’s helmet with water. During the procedure, Parmitano could not speak because of the water. Fortunately, the team managed to bring him in safely, ending the spacewalk.
According to Cassidy, these experiences taught him that training is crucial and can determine the outcome of a life-threatening situation. He said astronauts need to be prepared “for any contingency that happens.”