Working with Your Team and 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.
Recovering from Adversity, Tragedy, and Disappointment
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.
Being Resilient and Adaptable in Times of Change and Uncertainty
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.
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, but eventually Mike’s hard work, persistence and patience paid off with his acceptance by NASA (on his fourth try) and two missions on the Space Shuttle and four spacewalks on the Hubble Space Telescope. Mike brings the audience along on his extraordinary journey and shows 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 an organization that put the success of the team and the mission above individual accomplishments. The teamwork, leadership skills and strong friendships they developed through their training and spaceflights enabled Mike and his colleagues to complete astronaut training, overcome tragedy, and repair the greatest scientific instrument in space – the Hubble Space Telescope. Mike shows how true teamwork and leadership lead to success in professional endeavors 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 of 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.
Commercial Space Travel and the Future of Spaceflight
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.
Mike Massimino is a former NASA Astronaut, a New York Times Bestselling Author, a Columbia University Professor, a media personality, and the first person to tweet from space. He is a four-time spacewalker on two missions to the Hubble Space Telescope, including the final Hubble servicing mission which has been called the most dangerous and complex mission in space shuttle history. Mike has made numerous television appearances, including a recurring role as himself on the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, has hosted educational television programs, and provides expert commentary on morning shows and network and cable news programs.
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 bestseller. Mike's new book, Spaceman: The True Story of a Young Boy’s Journey to Becoming an Astronaut, a young adult version of his previously published autobiography, was released for publication on April 7th, 2020.
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. He is a recipient of the 2017 Christopher Award, the 2017 Columbia University Community Impact Outstanding Community Service Award, the 2017 National Space Club Communications Award, and in 2018 was inducted into the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame. The street that Mike grew up on in Franklin Square, Long Island has been renamed “Mike Massimino Street.” He received a BS from Columbia University, and MS degrees in mechanical engineering and in technology and policy, as well as a PhD in mechanical engineering, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.