A former astronaut’s lessons on life’s challenges and leadership — and dealing with mistakes

By James Rogers

In his e-book ‘Moonshot — A NASA Astronaut’s Information to Attaining the Unimaginable,’ Mike Massimino describes how astronauts sort out challenges

We will all relate to the frustration of attempting to take away a stripped screw, however, for Mike Massimino, one specific mangled screw was increased stakes than your typical DIY headache.

In 2009, the then-astronaut was in area, floating subsequent to the physique of the Hubble House Telescope and struggling to take away one of many screws that mounted a handrail to one of many telescope’s instrument panels.

Massimino was working to interchange the ability provide to Hubble House Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, one among its most necessary scientific devices. Floating excessive above the Earth, a handrail wanted to come back off earlier than Massimino might take away one other 111 screws and get to the instrument panel.

“The simplest activity was going to be elimination of a handrail,” Massimino advised MarketWatch, noting that the ability provide alternative was essentially the most sophisticated restore ever tried on the Hubble House Telescope. “100 new instruments have been designed for this activity,” he added. Whereas the primary three screws that hooked up the handrail got here out simply, Massimino bumped into an issue on the fourth and ultimate screw — he had stripped it along with his energy software and now it would not budge.

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Massimino tried completely different bits, however nothing would work. His fellow crewmembers on the area shuttle have been additionally working with NASA’s Johnson House Middle in Houston to try to resolve the issue. Finally, a crew at NASA’s Goddard House Flight Middle in Maryland got here up with an answer — rip off the handrail. This, nonetheless, was not with out its dangers, equivalent to doubtlessly puncturing Massimino’s spacesuit, or sending particles flying that might injury the area telescope.

“That they had me tape the underside of the handrail,” Massimino advised MarketWatch. After giving the handrail “a few shakes” the astronaut then efficiently yanked it away from the facet of Hubble. “It got here off, no downside,” he mentioned, and there was no particles.

Massimino’s tales are a part of his newest e-book “Moonshot — A NASA Astronaut’s Information to Attaining the Unimaginable,” which is out on Dec. fifth.

“Get assist, do not shut down,” he advised MarketWatch, explaining that his time working at NASA taught him necessary classes about teamwork, management, talking out, and in addition reaching out for assist.

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Born in 1962, Massimino grew up in what he described as a “working-class neighborhood” in Franklin Sq., Lengthy Island. The Columbia College and MIT graduate was chosen as a NASA astronaut candidate in Might 1996 and flew aboard Columbia and Atlantis House Shuttle in 2002 and 2009. He accomplished 4 spacewalks throughout these missions, lasting a complete of 30 hours and 4 minutes. Massimino left NASA in 2014 and is now a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia.

Massimino discovered necessary management classes from Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth man to stroll on the moon. “He advised me that the important thing to being chief and teammate is to discover a strategy to take care of and admire everybody in your crew,” Massimino mentioned. “I heard it from him, in all probability, after I had been an astronaut for 9 months — he got here to speak to our astronaut class.”

One of many chapters in Massimino’s e-book is dedicated to “pivoting,” with an evidence of Bean’s pivot to panting after 18 years as an astronaut.

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The e-book additionally addresses errors, and the way to deal with them. “You are going to make errors, you’ve got to learn to take care of them,” Massimino advised MarketWatch, recounting an incident when he cracked the visor on his helmet whereas coaching in a NASA pool. “I used to be shifting too rapidly — they needed to pull me out of the water to examine [the visor]. I used to be so embarrassed,” he mentioned. “I used to be advised: ‘You realize, man, you made that mistake, however it’s a must to let it go — you have got the entire sport in entrance of you.'”

At NASA, Massimino and his colleagues had a method for overcoming the emotions that comply with a mistake. “We had the 30-second rule — 30 seconds of remorse after which transfer on,” he mentioned.

With regard to alter, the astronaut noticed the appearance of personal area firms in direction of the tip of his area profession. Virtually 10 years later, the likes of SpaceX, Blue Origin, Axiom House and Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. (SPCE), are reshaping the area trade, together with United Launch Alliance, which is a three way partnership between Boeing Co. (BA) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT). “It offers extra alternative for folks … what we’re for the longer term could be very promising,” Massimino mentioned.

For instance, the professor defined how his college students at Columbia have been capable of ship two analysis initiatives to area — one on a Blue Origin car, and one other that traveled to and from the Worldwide House Station through SpaceX.

Podcast: The way forward for area exploration

-James Rogers

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