JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — The new head of NASA’s Astronaut Office will be a U.S. Navy SEAL.

Astronaut Christopher Cassidy is the pick for the job by NASA’s Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly.

With Thursday’s announcement that Astronaut Office Chief Robert Behnken would be among the first four commercial crew astronauts, a new head of the office was needed.

“The Navy has a long history working with NASA and supporting astronauts — during the earliest U.S. space flights, Frogmen helped return astronauts from a splashdown at sea,” “Now, we are proud to have a Frogman leading the Astronaut Office, Kelly said of Cassidy, a U.S. Navy captain. 

“Chris has served this nation admirably in the most challenging of circumstances and he will be a great leader for the astronaut corps.”

As the chief of the Astronaut Office, Cassidy will manage the operations and safety programs of the astronaut corps and will help develop crew assignments and flight crew operations.

Before joining the astronaut corps, Cassidy was a decorated combat veteran with 10 years as a Navy SEAL. 

He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan and was the a commander of platoons with SEAL Teams II and III. 

Cassidy had four combat deployments, twice to Afghanistan and two more to the Mediterranean. He deployed to the Afghanistan region two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, and served as ground assault force commander for international and U.S. only combat missions in Afghanistan. He also led two months of noncompliant ship-boardings in the Northern Persian Gulf.

Cassidy joined the astronaut corps in May 2004 and went into orbit twice.

He was a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2009 and was a member of the crew that installed the KIBO Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station.

Cassidy performed three spacewalks, totaling 18 hours and 5 minutes, during the 15-day mission.

In 2013 he was a member of the Expedition 35/36 crew that went to the space station as one of the first crews to complete an expedited trip to the station.

Instead of taking the standard two days to rendezvous and dock, the crew arrived and docked with the space station in less than six hours. 

During his 166 days aboard the station, Cassidy went on three spacewalks. 

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

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