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Mike  Massimino

Mike Massimino

Former NASA Astronaut & Best-Selling Author of Spaceman


Mike Massimino is a former NASA Astronaut, a New York Times bestselling author, a Columbia University engineering professor, and an advisor at The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Read More >

A veteran of two space shuttle missions and four spacewalks, Mike was the first person to tweet from space, holds the team record for the most spacewalking time on a single space shuttle mission, and successfully completed the most complicated spacewalk ever attempted to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Mike persisted through three rejections over 7 years on his way to becoming an astronaut, including overcoming a medical disqualification by training his eyes and brain to see better.

He has had a recurring role as himself on the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, is the host for the Science Channel Series The Planets and Beyond, was featured in National Geographic Television’s One Strange Rock, is a frequent expert guest on news programs and late night television (including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and The Late Show with David Letterman), and has been called the real-life astronaut who inspired George Clooney’s role in the movie Gravity. He lives in New York City. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Media Sizzle Reel

Netflix: Worn Stories Clip

Working with Your Team and Clients Over Distance

Dealing with Isolation

Being Resilient and Adaptable in Times of Change and Uncertainty

Recognizing the Purpose in Your Work

An Astronaut’s View of Space

On Teamwork and Never Giving Up

Innovation and Problem Solving


Mike Massimino on Letterman

A Citizen of Earth

Speech Topics

Following Dreams, Setting Goals & 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 & 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. The culture at NASA fostered strong relationships between astronauts and with NASA leadership. 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 & 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 with overcoming unforeseen challenges and adapting to change.

Being Resilient & Adaptable in Times of Change & Uncertainty

Mike’s first spaceflight was on Space Shuttle Columbia. On Columbia’s next voyage, the crew and the space shuttle were lost during re-entry. It was devastating to lose seven of his friends in an instant. While grieving and consoling the families of those fallen heroes, another reality set in: what would happen to the future of the space program? The International Space Station was not yet completed and the Hubble Space Telescope needed repair. Mike and his colleagues would not let the loss of their friends be in vain. Innovative procedures, tools, and techniques were developed to get the shuttle flying again to finish that important work. Read More >

Mike’s second space flight was one of the last of the Space Shuttle Program. It was time for NASA to retire the shuttle and move on to the next phase in space exploration. That next phase included flying exclusively on the Russian Soyuz for a few years, and working with commercial companies to provide launch services in the future. 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. 

We may not like the new world we are now living in that has forced us to change the way we do business. But by accepting change and knowing that change can provide unseen opportunities, we can still shoot for the stars. Mike shares stories of how that same effort and attitude is needed now to recover from the effects of COVID-19 on our businesses and lives. Read Less ^

Recognizing the Purpose in Your Work

No matter how much we enjoy our jobs we sometimes get caught up in the day to day activities and can forget the big picture. This can even happen to astronauts. Mike stresses the importance of trying to remember the reason why we work as hard as we do. In addition to supporting our families and enjoying the challenges of our jobs, we should always remember how we are making the world a better place through our work. For Mike as an astronaut it was servicing and repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. Arguably the greatest scientific instrument ever built, Hubble made some of the greatest scientific discoveries in history while showing us the beauty of our universe. Contributing to great projects makes all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.

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.

An Astronaut’s View on Overcoming the Challenges of Separation and Sheltering in Place

Over the past few months, a common joke Mike heard from family and friends is: “Hey Mike, I bet you wish you were in space now!” As a former NASA astronaut with two space shuttle missions and four spacewalks worth of experience, he was finding that his NASA training and space flights have helped him to prepare for what we are now all going through. He is familiar with feeling separated from the Earth, sheltering in space with his crewmates, executing a mission with a ground control team back on the planet, coping with loss and tragedy, not letting fear get in the way of success, and being resilient to overcome unforeseen challenges while away from traditional support systems. Read More >

When Mike was selected for the NASA Astronaut Class of 1996, astronauts were preparing to be sent to space for longer periods of time and increasingly challenging missions. It became apparent to NASA that this transition in space exploration was not going to be an easy one for the crew members and their families. All these astronauts looked to endeavors with similar challenges, such as polar exploration, to help them prepare to engage with isolation and hardship. Some of the guidelines were: embracing the situation as best they could; concentrating on meaningful work and developing hobbies; keeping open the lines of communication between friends, family and co-workers back on Earth; enjoying the beauty of the planet; keeping a regular schedule, including an emphasis on exercise, hygiene, and health; putting the well-being of crewmates first by being respectful and practicing good “expedition behavior” while sharing a living area; being flexible to handle unexpected challenges while away from normal channels for help; and using time away from the hustle and bustle of normal daily routines to think introspectively about their lives.

Mike wants to help people and organizations get through this difficult time with relatable stories that illustrate lessons learned and provide takeaways to call upon when inspiration and hope is needed, while also mixing in the wonders of spaceflight and a bit of humor.  He enjoys tailoring each talk to effectively connect with the specific audience. His traditional messages of persistence, leadership, and teamwork are still paramount in these stories, and they show that the finest moments can come out of the most challenging times. Read Less ^

Finding & Pursuing that Next Challenge

After a realizing a dream, there comes a time when one needs to find that next dream in life. For Mike, his astronaut career was a little boy dream come true. After 18 years it was time to find a new challenge in life and a new dream. Mike discusses the difficulty of giving up the most exciting and interesting job he could ever have for the next phase in life. New challenges are needed for happiness, and there is no reason why one dream job cannot be replaced by another. In Mike’s case that has meant a new career as a university professor, museum advisor, author, television personality, and speaker sharing his lessons and experiences from his life as an astronaut.

Private Space Travel & the Future of Spaceflight

We are in a very interesting time for space travel, transitioning from over 50 years of human space programs conducted exclusively by governments, to programs that provide new opportunities for private enterprise. It is similar to air travel a century ago when airplanes were used for government and military purposes and for barnstorming. Those early years led to the thriving commercial airline industry of today. Some of these programs are governments working with private enterprise such as the NASA Commercial Crew Program with Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Others are more purely commercial companies such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. There are also many smaller companies developing private space opportunities in tourism, rocket propulsion, zero gravity. science, and planetary exploration. Mike’s students at Columbia, as well as students he meets around the world, are very excited about careers in the space program, because in the near future it will not only be governments going to space, but also private innovators and entrepreneurs.

STEM Education

Inspired at age 6 to become an astronaut while watching Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon, Mike had no idea how to make his idea come true. But he discovered in elementary, middle, and high school that he liked math and science and decided to study engineering in college. Although being an astronaut was not on his mind in college, Mike followed his STEM interests, which eventually would lead him to NASA and the astronaut program. Following one’s interests can lead toward a happy and successful career even if a person is undecided about what they want to do with their lives while in school. Mike’s parents never had the opportunity to go to college but going to college and getting a STEM education changed his life. He learned not only about engineering, but also about how dreams come true – by getting an education in an area in which one is passionate.

Working with Your Team & Clients Over Distance

Mike and his fellow astronauts spent hours in simulators practicing how they would work and communicate with their support team in the Mission Control Center (MCC) while literally a world apart. He also spent years as a Capcom (Spacecraft Communicator) in MCC communicating with and supporting astronauts in space. Critical problems arose during Mike’s final spacewalk on the Hubble Space Telescope, and even though support team members were at various locations on Earth, they were able to save the day for Mike in space. Although we are now physically separated from each other today due to COVID-19, we can strive to be the person that people can call for help. Reach out and try to be someone else’s Mission Control Center.

Dealing with Isolation

Mike’s NASA training taught him valuable lessons on how to thrive in isolation.  Some tips are: try to embrace the situation; concentrate on meaningful work; keep open the lines of communication between friends, family and co-workers; be respectful of the well-being of your crewmates; keep up your self-care and exercise; enjoy the beauty of our planet; and use time away from the hustle and bustle of our normal daily routines to think introspectively about our lives.

Computer Hardware, Software & IT Professionals

If there is one constant in the IT world, it is the rapid pace of change across technology. Especially today as the world is going through difficult times and IT professionals are called upon to get us through this crisis. Teamwork and innovative problem solving helped Mike overcome an unexpected problem on his second spaceflight, which 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 – Mike stripped a bolt with a power tool, a problem for which there was no immediate solution. During his training Mike learned a takeaway that got him through the crisis: “Give yourself 30 seconds of regret, and then move on, because your team needs you.” The ground control team and the astronaut’s in space worked together to come up with an innovative fix that saved the day and the mission. Mike explains that we need to remain resilient and calm in the face of crisis. Not every problem has an obvious solution. However, preparation, innovation, persistence, and teamwork can help to create a culture of overcoming unforeseen challenges and adapting to change.