Astronaut, Columbia Professor, Media Personality, Author, and Inspiration for the Movie Gravity
Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut and the first person to tweet from space, is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University and the Senior Advisor for Space Programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. He received his Bachelor of Science from Columbia and Masters of Science in both Mechanical Engineering and in Technology and Policy, as well as his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Michael Massimino is the real-life astronaut who inspired George Clooney’s role in the film Gravity, Michael Massimino and his crews traveled higher and faster than any other astronauts in the 21st century.
After working as an engineer at IBM, NASA, and McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, along with academic appointments at both Rice University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Mike was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996. A veteran of two space flights, the fourth and fifth Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions in 2002 and 2009, Mike has many accomplishments including a team record for the number of hours spacewalking in a single space shuttle mission. He has also received a number of awards during his NASA career including two NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, American Astronautical Society’s 2009 Flight Achievement Award, and Star of the Italian Solidarity (Italian Knighthood). He is also the holder of two patents and author of many engineering research papers.
Back at his alma mater, Columbia, Mike is teaching an undergraduate engineering course, Introduction to Human Space Flight, which harnesses his years of academic and professional experience. He is also working with The Art of Engineering, a course in which all first-year engineers attend design lectures and work on engineering projects with socially responsible themes.
Mike has made numerous television appearances including a six-time recurring role as himself on the CBS hit comedy “The Big Bang Theory.” He hosted Science Channel’s “The Planets” and its special “The Great American Eclipse,” and will be featured in National Geographic Television’s upcoming series “One Strange Rock.” He is a frequent guest on television news and talk show programs including NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and FoxNews. He has also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Star Talk” radio and television shows. Mike also has an advisor and cameo role in the Netflix original series Away.
Mike’s book, Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, has received rave reviews and is a New York Times Bestseller. He has also received a 2017 Christopher Award, the 2017 Columbia University Community Impact Outstanding Community Service Award, and the 2017 Communications Award of the National Space Club. The street that Mike grew up on in Franklin Square, NY has been renamed “Mike Massimino Street.”
One Out of a Million is Not Zero: When the odds are against you, do it anyway.
Mike’s dream of becoming an astronaut began when he was six years old watching Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon. The path to achieving this dream was wrought with unexpected challenges, failures, disappointments, and self-doubt. Mike was rejected three times by NASA including a medical disqualification which Mike overcame by teaching his eyes and brain to “see better.” His persistence paid off when he was selected to be an astronaut on his fourth try. Mike stresses that as long as you keep trying, no matter the obstacles, achieving your goal is possible.
The Team’s Success is Your Success: You cannot do this alone. You will succeed or fail as a team.
The culture at NASA emphasized the importance of teamwork, and put the success of the team and the mission above individual accomplishments. Strong relationships between team members were forged through the extraordinary experiences that Mike and his fellow astronauts shared during their training and spaceflights. This teamwork enabled them to successfully complete their training, overcome tragedy, build the International Space Station, and repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Mike discusses how the NASA models for teamwork and leadership can be applied to the business world and in life.
Find Another Way Around: When you think all hope is lost, it’s not.
On the final Space Shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, Mike was tasked with the most complicated spacewalk ever attempted: the in-space repair of a delicate scientific instrument. Mike made a major error during that spacewalk, but the ground control team and the astronauts in space worked together to come up with an innovative solution that saved the day and the mission. Although not every problem has an obvious solution, Mike explains how preparation, innovation and creativity can help us with overcoming unforeseen challenges.
Get Ready to Pivot: Change is a constant, be ready to adapt.
Mike’s second space flight was one of the last of the Space Shuttle Program. It was time for NASA to retire the space shuttle and move on to the next phase in space exploration, which included relying heavily on private companies and on automation. Many at NASA did not want to accept these changes. But the last few years have shown that those who accepted these changes have thrived, while those who resisted are no longer contributing. Technological progress and entrepreneurship are needed in every industry, and the NASA team learned to embrace the changes in order to move on to that next phase. Our future is bright because of theses changes.
An Astronaut’s View of Planet Earth: We are living in a paradise, remember the big picture.
The orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope is 350 miles above the Earth, 100 miles higher than the International Space Station. From that altitude, astronauts are able to see the curvature of our planet, and spacewalking astronauts are able to take in the magnificent views through their helmet visors with a 360- degree view of the Earth and the surrounding universe. Mike describes his observations and feelings while viewing our planet, including its fragility and the importance of taking care of it.
Space: The Final Commercial Frontier: With greater access to space, possibilities are limitless.
For over 50 years, space programs were conducted exclusively by governments. NASA has long hoped to turn over some of its endeavors to private industry. We are now transitioning to programs with new opportunities for private enterprise – NASA’s partnership wth companies like Elon Musk’s Space X, along with commercial ventures such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Opportunities for commercialization of space seem as endless as space itself, and Mike provides insights into what we can expect.
All Michael Massimino Books
Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the UniversePurchase Book
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