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 >
Media Sizzle Reel
A Citizen of Earth
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
The Hubble Space 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. 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.
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 ^
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
With the recent SpaceX launch of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, a second golden age of space exploration has begun. In the future we can expect to see more entrepreneurial companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, exploring space not only for scientific benefit but also for profit. We are transitioning from over 50 years of human space flight 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 primarily for government and military purposes, and for barnstorming. Those early years led to today’s commercial airline industry. Just imagine what the recent accomplishments can lead to in the near future: space tourism, utilization of space resources, and science and technological developments to benefit life on Earth.
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.
"Mike was really great to work with and just some amazing stories and we’re bummed our clients couldn’t meet him in person, but we think this is the next best thing. Sort of like him talking to us from space. Many of his stories are very topical to what we are all going through right now including the quarantine astronauts go through before going into space and the isolation even in space being disconnected from the world. The story of teamwork with his fellow astronaut classmates was especially powerful for me—this idea that we win or lose together. A great reminder that we’re all in this together right now. And I enjoyed his story about needing to both accept change and anticipate change in the same moment. You have 30 seconds of venting, ranting, or feeling sorry for yourself—and then you move forward. Because the only constant is change. Really powerful! Please thank him for us."
“OMG – he was awesome! Everyone loved him!! He stayed to sign books and I think all 300 people waited in line to have him do so. We extended lunch by 30 min. so that everyone could have a chance to meet him, get their photos with him, and get their books signed. Mike is so genuine and so personable. He mingled with everyone before and after his talk. He is truly fabulous. We’ll certainly recommend him to other groups within UnitedHealth Group. We couldn’t have had a better motivator for our team.”
"We can’t thank you enough for your inspiring kick off presentation. You set just the right tone for our meeting and inspired our guests to create innovative approaches to solving some of our thorniest business issues. The meeting was a rousing success and you played a big part teeing it up."
"We have gotten an incredible amount of positive feedback about your talk, and to say you ‘delivered’ would be a complete understatement. Thank you for helping to inspire my team to be at their best with this amazing advancement for myeloma patients...for helping Janssen Oncology to DREAM BIG and GO FAR."
“I had the pleasure of hiring Mike to be our closing guest speaker at our annual user summit in January 2019 in Houston. In my role over the years, I have hired countless speakers to close out large user events and I will say that Mike is one of the best that I have ever hired. Not only is he a down to earth person and easy to talk with, but the message he delivers relates to everyone. Normally when you hire an external speaker to close out an event, there is usually a good size drop-off of people who are trying to catch a flight out of town. Not in our case. I looked around the room when Mike started and it was close to being as crowded as day 1 of the event (roughly 1300 people). Also afterwards, Mike signed his books for attendees and we estimate that 500+ were in line to get a book signed. I would HIGHLY recommend Mike to anyone who needs a closing guest speaker.”
“I wanted to thank you for your contribution to our sales meeting… your talk was the highlight of the meeting for all in attendance. It is always great for me to see an individual like yourself with an incredible resume and unique life experiences who is still incredibly humble and down to earth (pardon the pun). You fit in perfectly with our company values. Please consider yourself an honorary member of the Cook family. The feedback we got from the work you did at our meeting rated higher than anything we did and it wasn’t even close. The message you delivered – the tone of never giving up, team culture, perseverance and overcoming challenges - still resonates this week in conversations I have had with people. “I used my 30 seconds, I got over it and we have to move on.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.”
“Mike Massimino was a great hit at our annual employee kickoff. Mike did an amazing job getting a full understanding of our company and incorporating it in his speech. He captured the entire audience from begin to end, and he was just a perfect fit for the event.”
“On behalf of the entire marketing leadership team THANK YOU once again for joining us for the seminar and sharing your amazing story! For our team, your talk was incredibly powerful and inspiring! We have heard so many positive comments. It gave a lot of meaning to the seminar and I know people will continue using your stories and quotes for a long time! I personally am also super inspired and looking forward to reading your book.”
“Our company is buzzing about how amazing it was to hear your stories, challenges and successes!”
"Mike was a hit and made everyone's day. His presentation was really well done and set a great, positive and fun tone for our event. He was an absolute pleasure to work with. We really appreciate all the time he took to speak and take pictures with our customers. Everyone loved him and his keynote was stellar. We absolutely loved having him at Zoomtopia.”
“The team is still buzzing about your inspirational and engaging talk. You were a huge hit! We look forward to including you in other events at Fidelity."
“You invested time and did your homework to understand the audience, understand our company, what we're trying to achieve, and you effectively honed in on what you could to assist in that journey. As a result, you connected immediately and effectively with our employees; your story of focus, persistence and perseverance, success and failure, and especially team work, combined with astonishing photos and videos, created a truly unique and inspiring experience and motivated our team. Your energy, passion, humor, and connection with the audience was beyond impressive. Your message and stories resonated with our employees, many of whom went out of their way to share with us how inspiring they thought you are, and for context, this tremendous feedback was from an audience used to hearing from exceptional people with exceptional achievements; yet you easily topped our past keynotes. Here are but a few of the feedback notes from our team: ‘Outstanding message, story and presentation,’ ‘Incredible presenter, amazing engagement and connection with the audience,’ ‘Best of class presenter, especially challenging when compared to the other recent and strong keynotes we've had the opportunity to listen and learn from.’ The keynote speaker was very inspiring - great choice."
"We just wanted to say a big thank you for helping inspire our teams yesterday. And thank you for taking the extra time to sign books and pose for pics. All of those docs and frontline team members (and executives!) are buzzing with smiles today and repeating your stories. The messages that you deliver are very applicable to the work we do in acute healthcare."
"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."
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