The last time Josh Cassada, Expedition 68 flight engineer and SpaceX Crew-5 pilot, spoke at the University of Michigan’s Saturday Morning Physics lecture, he livestreamed from the International Space Station. Last Saturday, Cassada was able to speak to the University community in person. About 500 people gathered in person in the Central Campus Classroom Building and 200 people listened online to hear Cassada speak about the NASA SpaceX Crew-5 mission, in which he worked on the International Space Station for 157 days.
Cassada, along with other members of the mission team and people on the ISS, worked on more than 200 experiments while in space. The experiments focused on a range of disciplines, including cardiovascular health, bioprinting human organs and installing rolled-out solar arrays. According to Cassada, the experiments are all meant for the preparation of human exploitation beyond low Earth orbit.
One of the major experiments conducted on the ISS was bioprinting human organs using a 3D printer. In an interview with The Daily, Cassada explained more about bioprinting and its implications.
“The idea is to eventually be able to print an entire organ from a patient’s cell,” Cassada said. “It is amazing to me that we are at a spot now where we can leverage being in low Earth orbit to do things like potentially forwarding entire functioning organs using actual patient cells.”
Another experiment conducted on the ISS during the SpaceX mission was the Veg-05 experiment, which examined the effect of light quality and fertilizer on dwarf tomato production. Cassada spoke with The Daily on the significance of researching food production while in orbit.
“The need to be able to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in situ is going to be critical for deep space exploration,” Cassada said. “The (astronauts) are going to be in a spot where they are going to be able to do what we need when they don’t have the luxury of either sending up new cargo vehicles with food like we have right now or coming home if they need it.”
The U-M Department of Physics developed the Saturday Morning Physics lectures in 1995 as a vehicle to share recent projects, findings and ideas with the public. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Timothy Chupp, professor of physics and biomedical engineering and faculty organizer of Saturday Morning Physics, spoke about his experience working with Cassada.
“It is tremendously rewarding to be part of bringing science and its relation to policy, art and life to fans of all ages through Saturday Morning Physics,” Chupp said. “The opportunities to organize the live interview with Cassada from the International Space Station and then live back on Earth have been fun, exciting and brought some of the largest audiences to Saturday Morning Physics.”
During the event, Cassada shared his struggles with eating enough food while on the ISS. Though his doctors had advised him to eat 3,000 calories a day, Cassadra said there were limited options for food while in space. Cassadra described a time he shared a pizza with his crew members that they had made while at the station on Christmas Eve this past year. Cassada elaborated on the process of making this pizza in an interview with The Daily following the event.
“We used tin foil to make a little oven where we could heat up food,” Cassada said. “It was a lot of work to make the pizza, but we already had cheese, pepperoni and crust. We were all blown away at how good this pizza was and it was nice to be able to celebrate the holiday together in our own way.”
Cassada then gave the audience a demonstration of how the astronauts are weighed in space. He weighed himself by measuring the mass and frequency of a spring with and without the person on it.
“You can’t really get on a scale in space when you are standing because you are floating,” Cassada said. “You are not weightless but you can’t measure weight in the same way you would do on Earth with gravity.”
Timothy Fanning, a Saturday Morning Physics volunteer, told The Daily that Cassada has inspired him to continue studying physics.
“I am currently in the middle of writing my personal statements for physics graduate schools and have been struggling to remember why I liked science and physics in the first place,” Fanning said. “Cassada’s talk reignited that spark of curiosity and enjoyment of science for me in a way I was not at all expecting.”
Cassada said one of his greatest hardships while in space was unreliable satellite connection. Due to an outage during one of the most intense and last-minute football games of last season, the Michigan and Illinois game, Cassada said he was unable to watch the game-winning field goal scored by Jake Moody.
Despite the annoyances of not being able to reliably watch Michigan football, Cassada told the audience that it was surreal to view planet Earth from space.
“I do not remember ever looking out the windows and not being absolutely amazed,” Cassada said. “Our planet is incredible.”
Daily News Reporter Emma Lapp can be reached at email@example.com.