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. 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.
Being Resilient and Adaptable in Times of Change and Uncertainty
Massimino’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.
Teamwork and 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 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 with overcoming unforeseen challenges and adapting to change.
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.
Virtual Offering: An Astronaut’s View on Overcoming the Challenges of Separation and Sheltering in Place
Over the past few months a common joke I hear from family and friends is: “Hey Mike, I bet you wish you were in space now!” As a former NASA astronaut with two space shuttle missions and four spacewalks worth of experience, I am finding that my NASA training and spaceflights have helped to prepare me for what we are now all going through. I am familiar with feeling separated from the Earth, sheltering in space with my crewmates, executing our mission with our ground control team back on the planet, coping with loss and tragedy, not letting fear get in the way of success, and being resilient to overcome unforeseen challenges while away from traditional support systems. When I was selected for the NASA Astronaut Class of 1996, astronauts were preparing to be sent to space for longer periods of time and increasingly challenging missions. It became apparent to NASA that this transition in space exploration was not going to be an easy one for the crew members and their families. We looked to endeavors with similar challenges, such as polar exploration, to help us prepare to engage with isolation and hardship. Some of our guidelines were: embracing the situation as best we could; concentrating on meaningful work and developing hobbies; keeping open the lines of communication between friends, family and co-workers back on Earth; enjoying the beauty of our planet; keeping a regular schedule, including an emphasis on exercise, hygiene, and health; putting the well-being of our crewmates first by being respectful and practicing good “expedition behavior” while sharing our living area; being flexible to handle unexpected challenges while away from our normal channels for help; and using time away from the hustle and bustle of our normal daily routines to think introspectively about our lives.
I am very grateful that I can help people and organizations get through this difficult time with relatable stories that illustrate lessons learned and provide takeaways to call upon when inspiration and hope is needed, while also mixing in the wonders of spaceflight and a bit of humor. I enjoy tailoring each talk to effectively connect with the specific audience. My traditional messages of persistence, leadership, and teamwork are still paramount in these stories, and drive home my experiences that our finest moments can come out of our most challenging times.
Working with Your Team and Clients Over Distance
Massimino 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 Massimino’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 Massimino 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
Massimino’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.
Resourcefulness When Recovering from Adversity, Tragedy, and Disappointment
Massimino’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. Massimino 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. Massimino 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.