Mike Massimino | Spaceman (Episode 569)

Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) is the astronaut who sent the first tweet from space and the first spacefarer we’ve had on this show! He’s the author of Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • How is bedtime on a space shuttle mission a lot like a slumber party?
  • Why assembling a team around you is crucial for success — whether orbiting or staying on the surface of the planet.
  • Why it’s important to take small, deliberate steps in the right direction for the sake of your own happiness.
  • How to stay focused on the task at hand in the face of disaster by thinking like an astronaut.
  • Why even astronauts have imposter syndrome.
  • And so much more…

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Almost anyone who’s looked up at the night sky has wondered what it would be like to take a trip into space.

On this episode of The Art of Charm, we talk to someone who has made the journey and returned to tell the tale — Mike Massimino, astronaut and author of Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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(Direct Download Episode Here)

More About This Show

Astronaut is one of those dream jobs that countless kids have wished for since before man walked on the moon. And while there’s not yet a single, set career path that guarantees someone a ticket into space, the childlike wonder that accompanies a lucky applicant into orbit doesn’t really get left behind on Earth — no matter how “cool” an astronaut may seem to the rest of us suckers who remain forever tethered to the planet.

In fact, when you ask astronaut and author of Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe Mike Massimino what bedtime on a space shuttle mission is like, he’ll tell you it’s a bit like a slumber party — albeit a weightless one.

“Your crewmates are around you in their sleeping bags…in the same room,” says Mike. “Your…sleeping bag has various little hooks — not carabiners, but easy, quick-release hooks — and there are different things you can hook it to on the space shuttle. You hook the sleeping bag to the ceiling or to the wall and then you float inside of it…so you’re not going to float away, bang your head, or wake up your friends.”

So how does someone even begin the journey that ends up with an invitation to this slumber party in the sky? When Mike was six and watching Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon, a background as a military test pilot seemed like the surest path. But as time went on and Mike got older, he realized that wasn’t the path for him. He started to give up the dream of ever becoming an astronaut.

Mike’s interest was rekindled when, as a senior in college, he saw the movie The Right Stuff. This coincided with NASA’s early space shuttle program, which was taking applications from a far more diversified number of backgrounds than just military test pilots.

“I started reading about the astronauts and who they were and I found out they weren’t all military test pilots,” says Mike. “They were women and people of color and different ethnic backgrounds and civilians…it was all types of people who were becoming astronauts — not too much different from who I was! I never really thought I could actually do it, really, but I thought I could at least try.”

Mike knew he was competing against thousands of others who had the same dream. But even if he didn’t land the coveted grand prize of astronaut, he figured the pursuit toward that goal might at least qualify him for a consolation prize of work in the space program. Deciding to go for it, he quit his job at IBM and went to graduate school at MIT, which led to a master’s degree and the beginning criteria that would qualify him to apply as an astronaut. He knew it would be a financially costly journey, but one he couldn’t afford not to make.

“I think that’s the way you need to look at things: not in dollars and cents, but in how you’re going to spend your time on the planet,” says Mike.

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn why Mike is glad he took the time to work a few years instead of going to graduate school fresh out of college, how Mike found a niche that made him an appealing astronaut candidate to NASA, how a lifelong mentor gave Mike a nudge in the right direction when he was feeling aimless about his future, why Mike realized that paying for further education and giving up a stable job making good money was a far less costly path than not pursuing his dreams, what legacy Mike hopes to leave for his kids, why Mike considers the concept of “doing it all on your own” is outdated — and why you need a team around you to be successful, why we shouldn’t take the beauty of Earth for granted, what Mike sees as the future of space travel, and lots more.

THANKS, MIKE MASSIMINO!

If you enjoyed this session with Mike Massimino, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Mike Massimino at Twitter!

Resources from this episode:

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Jordan Harbinger - author of 883 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.

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