When I was six years old, I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and dreamed that one day I would follow in those historic footsteps. But as a working class kid who was skinny, awkward, nearsighted, and afraid of heights, I saw no path to becoming an astronaut. So my dream died by age eight, only to be rekindled after seeing the movie and reading the book The Right Stuff when I was a senior in college.
In my book, Spaceman, I encourage young people to never give up on big dreams. I take them through the struggles I overcame to get to space: pursuing an engineering degree, failing my PhD qualifying exam at MIT, being rejected by NASA three times before being accepted on the fourth try, and overturning a NASA medical disqualification by training my eyes to “see better.”
My lifelong love of math and science led me to become an engineer which, in turn, opened the doors to space. I chose engineering not only to create and build, but most importantly to be in a field that contributes positively to society. Engineering is challenging, however, and I hit many roadblocks in the pursuit of that dream. But refusing to be discouraged by failure led me to an exciting career and a truly extraordinary life.
In Spaceman, I take the reader with me on my academic and personal journey with stories of astronaut training and the wonders of spaceflight as experienced on my two Shuttle flights. I describe what I saw while on four spacewalks on the Hubble Space Telescope and pay tribute to the camaraderie and teamwork that got me through my lowest moments both on Earth and in space.
My new dream is that after reading Spaceman, young people will go for their own dreams, no matter how big or unlikely. I want to inspire them to work even harder when knocked down so that maybe, like me, they will find themselves flying through the air experiencing the impossible.
Email us at email@example.com for a FREE Advance Reader’s Copy of Spaceman, while supplies last.
Mike Massimino will be a featured speaker at the 2016 Penguin Random House NYC Teacher Event on October 10, 2016.
Mike with students of the Columbia Space Initiative
Credit: Jeanette Pala