Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Spaceman and a Storyteller

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe – Mike Massimino – (Crown Archetype)

Ever since July 20, 1969, when my parents woke me up to witness the first walk on the moon; Neil Armstrong took that fateful step at 10:56 PM and I was an early to bed early to rise 8 year old, astronauts and space flight have held a place of fascination for me. It’s not the kind of fascination that had me dreaming of going to space like so many kids, but more of a wonder and awe of these brave folks who hurtle their bodies into space because like author Tom Wolfe described it, they have “the right stuff.”

In the intervening years I have been lucky enough to interview some of the original NASA pioneers and astronauts and gain insight into what drove them to pursue this amazing endeavor. I have read a shelf full of biographies and I can say with certainty the Mike Massimino’s, Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe is my favorite of the bunch.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s blurb on the book’s jacket really nails things down; “Every generation of astronauts needs a storyteller.” Massimino is that storyteller! He writes with an easy, comfortable style, that gives the details of the engineering of space flight that even us non-engineers can grasp.

Here is a guy who counts himself among a very small number of folks who have done amazing things in space and he writes with an awe of a child about viewing the Earth from 350 miles up, while dangling outside the Hubble Space Telescope. I was moved by his descriptions and surprised by his expression of faith and who God gave us an amazing place to live known as Earth. Put that in your pipe and smoke Bill Nye!

The sadness is palpable when Massimino writes about STS 107, the space shuttle Columbia 28th mission, that disintegrated upon re-entering Earth atmosphere. Massimino was part of the crew of STS 109 which would have been the Columbia’s 28th mission, but technical issues and scheduling bumped 109 ahead of 107 and by the luck of the draw he and his crew mates returned safely home. His insights into what the loss of his fellow Astronauts and friends will move you to tears.

In the end, it is often that raw emotion that Massimino expresses throughout the book, the things he experienced and felt during his time in space that really separate Spaceman from the rest of the pack of Astronaut bios.

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