Michael Massimino

Former NASA Astronaut, Columbia University Engineering Professor

Michael Massimino
  • Veteran of two space flights, the fourth and fifth Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions
  • Holds a team record for the number of hours spacewalking in a single space shuttle mission and first person to tweet from space.
  • Numerous television appearances include The Big Bang Theory, Science Channel’s The Planets and Great American Eclipse, and National Geographic Channel’s One Strange Rock
  • Draws from his first-hand experience at NASA to discuss goal setting, problem solving, teamwork, and leadership

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Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut, is a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University and the senior advisor for space programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. He received a BS from Columbia University, and MS degrees in mechanical engineering and technology and policy, as well as a PhD in mechanical engineering, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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, Professor Massimino was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996, and is the veteran of two space flights, the fourth and fifth Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions in 2002 and 2009.  Mike has a team record for the number of hours spacewalking in a single space shuttle mission and was also the first person to tweet from space. During his NASA career he received two NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the American Astronautical Society’s Flight Achievement Award, and the Star of Italian Solidarity (Italian knighthood).

At Columbia, Professor Massimino is teaching an undergraduate engineering course, Introduction to Human Space Flight, which harnesses his years of academic and professional experience. He is also collaborating on The Art of Engineering, a course in which all first-year engineers 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 has hosted Science Channel’s The Planets and its special Great American Eclipse.  He is featured in National Geographic Channel’s series One Strange Rock and is the host for Science Channel’s series The Planets and Beyond.   He is a frequent guest on television news and talk show programs, including NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and Fox News. He has also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk radio and television shows.

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 best-seller. He is a recipient of the 2017 Christopher Award, the Columbia University Community Impact Outstanding Community Service Award, and the Communications Award of the National Space Club. The street that Mike grew up on in Franklin Square, Long Island has been renamed “Mike Massimino Street.”

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Speaker Video

Michael Massimino Speaking Introduction

Mike Massimino: Interview with a Spaceman

Spaceflight: Michael Massimino at TEDxColumbiaEngineering

Mike Massimino: How Food Is Different in Space

The Moth Presents Michael Massimino

Mike Moth

Following Dreams, Setting Goals, and Never Giving Up. Mike’s dream of becoming an astronaut began when he was six years old watching television as Neil Armstrong took 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 to “see better.”   His persistence paid off with two missions on the Space Shuttle and four spacewalks on the Hubble Space Telescope.   Mike stresses that as long as you keep trying no matter what the obstacles, achieving your goal is possible.

Teamwork and Leadership. Upon arriving at NASA, Mike discovered he was part of team that put the success of the team and the mission above individual accomplishments. Teamwork and leadership was developed through the extraordinary experiences that Mike and his fellow astronauts shared during their training and spaceflights. Through these experiences strong friendships and working relationships were forged that enable Mike and his colleague’s to complete astronaut training, overcome tragedy, and repair the greatest scientific instrument in space – the Hubble Space Telescope.  Mike discusses how teamwork and leadership led to success during his spaceflights and in life.

Innovation and Problem Solving. Mike’s second spaceflight was the final Space Shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. On that mission Mike was tasked with the most complicated spacewalk ever attempted: the in-space repair of a delicate scientific instrument inside of the telescope. A major miscue during that spacewalk nearly led to failure. But the ground control team and the astronaut’s in space worked together to come up with an innovative solution that saved the day and the mission.  Mike explains how although not every problem has an obvious solution, preparation and innovation can help us overcome unforeseen challenges.

An Astronaut’s View on Planet Earth. 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 our planet 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.  Climate Change, one Earth.

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