Space Fan Finally Gets There

A serendipitous story of two kindrid spirits, linked by space and 9/11.

Chad Keller was always fascinated by space and knew he would one day go into orbit or work in the space industry. His real goal was to be an astronaut but, sadly, his eyesight wasn’t quite good enough, so he settled on aerospace engineering and helped get others up in the air.


Meanwhile, Chris Cassidy was a space fan too. He was a Navy SEAL-turned-NASA astronaut. Chris and Chad were about the same age and their lives intertwined more than once, first in tragedy: Chad was killed when his plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11; as a result, Chris was deployed overseas within days of the attacks, reports CNN.


Some years later, Chris (now an astronaut) visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, where Chad’s story and his interstellar dreams were featured in a display. Chris often took mementos up to space with him, usually belonging to family and friends. But, as he prepared for his last spaceflight before retirement, Chris phoned Chad’s father to ask whether his son could accompany him into the sky for his final trip.


With his father's blessing duly secured, Chris blasted off to space with mementos of Chad’s 29 years on Earth, including a photo of Chad, happily smiling with his wife and a memorial program from his funeral. Chris snapped a photo of Chad’s belongings floating in the cupola, the space station’s observatory that overlooks the planet from above. "It's kind of special to think about the story and the path, the journey of that object from the hands that it was in to my hands to this window," Chris said.


Chad belonged in space after all - it just took serendipity and the kindness of a kindred spirit to get him there.

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