Every now and again, I find that I need to get away from the realm of Science Fiction and read something that is more based on fact. That opportunity presented itself recently when I became aware that Astronaut Mike Massimino had penned an autobiography outlining his experiences on becoming and being a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps.
Previous to reading Spaceman, my exposure to the author came through some of the interviews he conducted for the NASA Channel, some of the interviews of which he was the subject, and through his frequent appearances on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s weekly StarTalk Radio show which is available through iTunes. I have always enjoyed listening to Mike because, along with his giant sense of humor, he is an intelligent and thoughtful individual, but not one to be overstated when he talks. He is very personable as he visits with Dr. Tyson and others and just listening to him, you cannot call him anything other than Mike. So if he happens to read this post, it is my hope that Dr. Mike Massimino will forgive my presumptuousness in referring to him as just Mike. Along with listening to him talk and especially since reading his book, I feel this is a man that I could be friends with; he’s just an ordinary guy who found and made opportunities to do some truly extraordinary things in his life, and he’s still going strong.
Spaceman is the story of Mike’s journey to become a very important part of what has kept the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit and operating for so many years (the Hubble has been in orbit since April, 1990 and has taken numerous breathtaking photos as well as performed above and beyond expectations as astronomers continue to regularly make new discoveries about the universe). Starting out dreaming of becoming an astronaut at a young age, Mike would read everything he could get his hands on and dream of going into space. Among his inspirations there was the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, and the release of the film The Right Stuff in 1983. From there, Mike embarked on his life’s mission to become an astronaut which took many twists and turns that could have very well ended any possibility of his achieving his goal. However, there is no quit in Mike and as each obstacle presented itself, he would find a way to overcome and persevere, usually with the help of others. In the book, Mike often writes about the importance of teamwork and how being a team player opened doors of opportunity that he would not have been able to open by himself.
Mike’s writing style is conversational and straightforward, and it is obvious that he intended this book for anyone to enjoy. While there are many references to the technical aspects of his work with NASA, the reader is not overwhelmed by those aspects and they are explained adequately so one can understand without being distracted from the author’s story. However, what I found to be outstanding in this book were Mike’s descriptions of his time in space; the sights, the sounds (or lack thereof), and the way that astronauts support each other.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys learning more about what the men and women involved with the space program sacrifice to achieve their goals, and to further demonstrate that an alternate way to approaching seemingly insurmountable problems is to face them and solve them as opposed to quitting. I would especially recommend this book to any young people that may be considering pursuing a career with NASA as a fine, inspirational starting point for becoming prepared for an interesting life if one is willing to do the work it takes to get there.
Well, there it is…