U of R graduate splashes back down to Earth

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TAMPA, F.L. — After spending five months aboard the International Space Station, University of Rochester graduate Josh Cassada splashed back down to Earth.

The NASA pilot, who earned his doctorate in 2000 from the U of R, conducted scientific experiments and maintenance as a member of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission. The team launched from Florida on Oct. 6 and parachuted down in a capsule off Florida’s Gulf coast, near Tampa, on Saturday night.

Joining Cassada on the Spacex capsule were Texas-based astronaut Nicole Mann, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina. After landing, the crew flew back to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

After landing, Cassada Tweeted that the team “left the International Space Station and human spaceflight a little better than we found it.”

In February, Cassada spoke to students of the Rochester City School District live from the International Space Station. He answered students’ questions about how he eats, sleeps, and works in space. During the video call, he made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a tortilla and bottles that floated in the air.

Cassada conducted three spacewalks outside the station to install Roll-Out Solar Arrays, according to NASA. During their mission, the crew rotated around the Earth 2512 times.

Some experiments the crew conducted focused on food production. They grew dwarf tomatoes along with plants without soil and tested a system to produce yogurt, kefir, and yeast-based beverages.

The crew also reinstalled the station’s bioprinting facility as a stepping stone in plans to produce whole human organs in space. To help improve Moon rover designs, Cassada and his team studied how liquids move in a container that’s simulated by lunar gravity. While in space, the crew launched Uganda and Zimbabwe’s first satellites.

This was Cassada’s first space flight, although he’s been an astronaut for NASA since 2013. The 49-year-old was born in San Diego, grew up in Minnesota, and served as a test pilot for the Navy before joining NASA. According to the U of R, he is the third alumni to go into space.