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Mike  Massimino

Mike Massimino

Former NASA Astronaut & Best-Selling Author of Spaceman


Mike Massimino is a former astronaut, the first person to tweet from space, a recurring character on The Big Bang Theory, a professor at Columbia University and a New York Times best-selling author. His highly engaging talks take audiences on a brilliant journey where seemingly unreachable childhood dreams are achieved, obstacles are overcome, and the world of science intersects with what is perhaps humankind’s most thrilling adventure. Along the way, this “down to earth spaceman,” known for his sense of humor, provides a unique and highly motivating perspective on teamwork, innovation, leadership and achieving the impossible. Read More >

Mike’s childhood space dreams were born the day Neil Armstong set foot on the moon. A working class kid from Long Island, he made it to Columbia and then MIT, only to flunk his doctoral exam and be rejected three times by NASA for poor eyesight. Driven by determination and commitment, he simply “trained” his eyes to be better. 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 finally selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996. He is the veteran of two space flights and the fourth and fifth Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions in 2002 and 2009. During the 2009 mission, he became the first person to tweet from space. Mike also holds a team record for the number of hours spacewalking in a single space shuttle mission. He shared his interstellar adventures in his critically praised New York Times best-selling book, Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe. In his newest book, SPACEMAN: The True Story of a Young Boy's Journey to Becoming an Astronaut, Massimino shares his dreams of traveling to space as a seven-year-old seeing Apollo 11 land on the moon to how even though the odds were against him, he never gave up, and became the astronaut he dreamt of being.

Fans of The Big Bang Theory will recognize Mike for his six-time recurring role as himself on the CBS hit comedy. He has also hosted Science Channel’s The Planets and its special Great American Eclipse. Mike 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 on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Mike is currently 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.

Sharing a life story that emphasizes the power of determination, teamwork and overcoming challenges, Mike’s talks also celebrate the surreal wonder of space exploration itself. Posing questions such as, “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself strapped to a giant rocket that’s about to go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour?” Mike Massimino transports us to a world that few humans have experienced—inspiring all of us to achieve our dreams. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Media Sizzle Reel

Innovation and Problem Solving

An Astronaut’s View of Space

Recognizing the Purpose in Your Work

Fixing the Hubble Telescope

On Teamwork and Never Giving Up

Following Dreams and Setting Goals


Mike Massimino on Letterman

The Hubble Space Telescope

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

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. That next phase included flying exclusively on the Russian Soyuz for the foreseeable future, and working with commercial companies in the coming age of private space travel. 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 inevitable in every industry, and the NASA team learned to embrace the changes in order to move on to that next phase. We now have partnerships and burgeoning private space industry. Many of Mike’s students are still excited about working for NASA, but many are also excited about the new opportunities with private space companies and our future in space is bright because of these changes.

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.

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.

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.