Recap: Meet and Greet with Former NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino

On October 14, 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a book signing with former NASA Astronaut, Mike Massimino, at the Museum of Flight.

Mike Massimino's new book. (Photo Credit: Amazon)
Mike Massimino’s new book. (Photo Credit: Amazon)

I am somewhat obsessed with the space program.  I grew up near Edwards Air Force Base, California and my father would take us to watch the Space Shuttle land.  I have a photo I cherish of my Uncle Dana holding me as a child next to the Space Shuttle Challenger after it had landed at Edwards.  I won first place in a NASA essay contest my senior year of high school and had the opportunity to read my essay in front of NASA employees. Both my father and father-in-law have worked at NASA. I dragged my husband to Florida with me in 2011 to watch the final Space Shuttle launch after I won passes to watch the launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Lesley Haenny at the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantic in July 2011 (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Lesley Haenny at the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011 (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Lesley Haenny at the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantic in July 2011 (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Lesley Haenny at the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011 (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Lesley Haenny at the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantic in July 2011 (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Lesley Haenny at the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011 (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

I took time off of work when I lived in Washington, DC to watch the Space Shuttle Discovery fly over the city before it landed in its final resting place at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in Virginia.  Needless to say, I love the space program.

(Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
(Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

I fondly remember being at work and my boss letting me live stream NASA TV while Mike Massimino was working on the Hubble Space Telescope.  When I heard he had published a book about his life and time with NASA and that he was going to be at the Museum of Flight, I jumped at the chance to attend.

The evening did not disappoint.  The Museum of Flight held the book signing and lecture in the beautiful Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, which houses the Space Shuttle Trainer.  The Museum offered light hors d’oeuvres and drinks as guests were able to walk around the gallery and onto the Space Shuttle Trainer.  Mike walked around and spoke to guests as well.

Lesley Haenny inside the Space Shuttle Trainer (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Lesley Haenny inside the Space Shuttle Trainer (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

The Full Fuselage Trainer is a full-scale mock-up of the Space Shuttle without the wings and was used as a test bed for upgrades to the shuttle fleet and for astronaut training such as extra-vehicular activity (EVA) and emergency egress.  You can read more about it here.

Guests eventually sat down and were treated to an hour lecture by Mike Massimino as he discussed his childhood and how his father did everything he could to give Mike all the opportunities life could warrant. He described how he applied for the NASA Astronaut program four times before he was finally selected. Talk about motivation to never give up on your dreams, even when doors are slammed in your face!  And apparently, the third time is not always the charm.  NASA also used their fourth-round draft pick to fix the Hubble Space Telescope.

Mike Massimino talks to guests about his childhood inspirations. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Mike Massimino talks to guests about his childhood inspirations. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Mike's NASA graduating class. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Mike’s NASA graduating class. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space in 1990 and to this day, continues to take photos of the deepest parts of our universe. Mike and crew were sent up on service missions to do some major and extremely delicate repairs.  During these missions, Mike and the crew set team records for spacewalking and Mike became the first person to tweet from space!

The Hubble Space Telescope (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
The Hubble Space Telescope (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

Mike described what his first space flight was like in great detail and that first moment when he saw Earth from outside the Space Shuttle’s windows. The intense beauty before him was what he felt looking into heaven must have been like.  He showed guests some haunting videos of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew before their descent back to Earth in 2003 and described his friendship with the crew members.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house after that. On a light-hearted note, he also talked about his time working on the hit tv show, The Big Bang Theory.

The Hubble Space Telescope above Earth. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
The Hubble Space Telescope above Earth. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

After the lecture, guests lined up and Mike signed his new book, “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe.” I had the chance to talk to him for a couple minutes and the copy of the book I had ordered on Amazon was apparently the British version of the book and he was very excited to see it because he hadn’t had the chance to look at it yet. We shared a few laughs and I walked away with his autograph in my book and a copy of the British version of the book for my dad.

Mike Massimino and Lesley Haenny, with a copy of both the American and British versions of his book on the table. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
Mike Massimino and Lesley Haenny, with a copy of both the American and British versions of his book on the table. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
(Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)
(Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

Mike’s book can be purchased on Amazon here.  I also highly suggest checking out the Museum of Flight’s Space Shuttle Trainer!

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