On the evening of October 14th, 2016, we visited Seattle’s Museum of Flight to hear Astronaut Mike Massimino talk about his new autobiography, Spaceman. The Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, where the event was held, featured a full-size shuttle trainer used by all NASA astronauts to train. It was in front of the shuttle trainer that Mike Massimino spoke about his childhood and the landmark STS-125 mission, the final servicing flight to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Spaceman is the story of how a boy in a working-class neighborhood in New York charted a course to NASA, fueled by the dream of space, etched in his heart and mind on the day of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing.
Every astronaut at NASA has an impressive resume, and Mike Massimino is no exception. A graduate of Columbia University and MIT, it still took him four attempts to join the Astronaut Program. Spaceman makes it apparent that it was his intellectual curiosity and love of adventure that propelled him to become an astronaut. After all, he is an engineer who counts books like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Center Of The Earth among his favorites.
Through Spaceman, readers get an intimate look at how close all the astronauts become, like a family. They are dedicated to one another, and counted on to provide support in times of tragedy. It’s sometimes easy to forget that space travel is a dangerous. The loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew is heartbreaking to read about. How NASA and the astronauts regroup to launch STS-125 is easily one of the highlights of this book.
Since leaving NASA, Mike Massamino has been teaching at Columbia University, popularizing science and educating people as a frequent guest on Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Startalk Radio, and making guest appearances on the hit TV show Big Bang Theory.
During the lecture, he mentioned that he would love to go back to space again. And what did it feel like taking off on a space shuttle? “Oh, you know you’re definitely going somewhere when it takes off.” Isn’t it crazy that people attach themselves to a bomb, basically, and blast off into space? Crazy. He also highlighted achievements by women and people of color throughout the lecture. Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, another astronaut, was also in the audience, and he gave her a shout out too, of course. His genuine admiration for colleagues and students was wonderful to see.
On the night of the event, we entered the gallery and immediately spotted Mike Massimino talking to a slight Asian man, an engineer who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, thanking Mike Massimino for fixing it. Hubble Space Telescope had a rocky start (it didn’t work when it launched!), but thanks to the Hubble and two teams of scientists, we now know that the universe is 13.7 billion years old. The photos it takes are mesmerizing. Check them out here: Hubblesite.org
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