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2004 Astronaut Candidate
Chris Cassidy, Mission Specialist

Chris Cassidy, Mission Specialist. Photo credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center. Navy SEAL Chris Cassidy had just returned from a second tour in Afghanistan when he got word that his next mission could take him much, much farther away.

"I hope to be the next guy on the moon," Cassidy says.

Image left: 2004 Astronaut Candidate Chris Cassidy. Click for High Resolution Image. Photo credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center.

Cassidy has been selected to begin astronaut training this summer as a mission specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. It is an opportunity he has worked toward for years, after hearing about the achievements of a fellow SEAL.

"I heard about Bill Shepherd, and I found his story motivating," Cassidy said of the first International Space Station commander. "I contacted him and asked him what sort of things I should do to prepare myself to be an astronaut."

Among the things he says Shepherd recommended was that he go back to school. Already armed with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy, Cassidy applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT. He eventually earned a Master's degree there in Ocean Engineering.

Cassidy grew up in York, Maine, where he played basketball at York High School. He also attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I. His Navy career has taken him across the country and around the world, from Norfolk, Va. on the east coast to San Diego, Calif. on the west. After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the Navy sent him to Afghanistan.

LT. CMDR. CHRIS CASSIDY (U.S. NAVY), Mission Specialist

AGE: 34

BORN: Salem, Massachusetts

EDUCATION: BS, Mathematics, U.S. Naval Academy, 1993; MS, Ocean Engineering, MIT, 2000

CURRENT JOB: Commander, Naval Special Warfare Task Unit, Afghanistan, Senior SEAL in Afghanistan

QUICK FACT: Has done two tours of duty in Afghanistan

QUOTE: "I hope to be the next guy on the moon."

His platoon was deployed to fight in the war against terrorism shortly after September 11. He says that was a "nerve-wracking" time for his family. During his second Afghan tour, he took on a greater leadership role and was involved heavily in planning. Cassidy, now a lieutenant commander in the Navy, says he is "just happy to come home in one piece."

Cassidy, 34, is married and has three children, all of whom, he says, are excited to move to Houston. Their dad is enthusiastic, too. Cassidy is "more excited than ever" by the new Vision for Space Exploration and is thrilled at the timing of his selection. By the time NASA is ready to return humans to the moon, he says, he'll be ready.

"I was attracted to NASA for the mystique of traveling into space," he says. "I want to contribute to the agency's mission in any way I can."