Former NASA Astronaut & Professor
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. Read More >
Planets & Spaces
On the Hubble Telescope
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Mike was great. He did a fantastic job of engaging the audience with his stories and down-to-earth style (pardon the pun). He hit the mark on our key messages, but didn’t beat people over the head with them. He integrated them seamlessly into his stories. I also appreciated that he hung around and chatted with a number of our colleagues after his remarks – even if it did nearly cause him to miss his flight. All told, he was a hit."
"Everyone was thrilled with the meeting, especially your presentation. I have never received so much positive feedback after one of our All Staff meetings."
"Your inspiration, passion and down to earth style was nothing short of spectacular."
"Our leaders were inspired by your story and I believe walked away with a renewed sense of purpose and ready to focus on our new aspiration and goal. Your determination has encouraged us to think differently and be more courageous in our pursuits to impact society."
"Just wanted to take a minute and say thank you for your presentation yesterday. I have had numerous people stop me and tell me how much they loved your story – how your message really hit home with our transformation."
"Your presentation was fantastic and highly rated by our audience. On behalf of USA Rice, and the more than 750 conference attendees, please accept our warmest appreciation for your contribution to the quality and success of the meeting."
"Thanks again for doing a superb job today. Really top notch. They loved you. Couldn’t have asked for a better crafted talk."