Sunday, June 11, 2017

Spaceman, Mike Massimino

https://www.amazon.com/Spaceman-Astronauts-Unlikely-Journey-Universe/dp/1101903546

A book that I suspect only relatively hard core space junkies will enjoy. There are some really interesting sections on the Hubble, spacewalking, the process of getting to be an astronaut, etc **IF** those things are of signficant interest to you.

Of most interest to me were:
  • How much flying time riding as a back-seater in T-38s was REQUIRED even if you were a mission specialst that is never going to pilot anything -- psychological training!
  • How strong the astronaut sense of community is and how heavily Christian oriented it is. When you you fly on a spacecraft, you are ready to go and ready to GO (permanently).
  • How much less "star power" there now is in being an astronaut or ex-astronaut. Massimino is a professor at Columbia now, one of his astronaut buddies is a commercial airline pilot and another flies for FedEx. 
  • "Experience vs Knowledge". Mike is orbiting at the Hubble spacewalking, looks around and EXERIENCES the billiant light of the stationary sun as the earth rotates out of darkness ushering in a new 90 min Hubble "day". Mike EXPERIENCED the fact that the sun is stationary (relative to earth) and the day and night are caused by the rotation of the earth. Of course he "knew" that, but experience is much more. Telling someone about being a grandparent is not the same as being a grandparent. 
Mike was a long shot for space -- somewhat weak qualifications considering the competion and very marginal eyesight for an astronaut. Good "never give up" motivational example.

Through a number of twists and turns, personality/connections and certainly some good fortune or "fate", he flew two missions to repair the Hubble that sits at a higher orbit than the ISS, 350 miles vs 250 miles, so the view is better, you see the whole earth "blue marble effect". His first flight was STS-109, which bumped STS-107 so that they had to wait. 107 was the last flight of Columbia, broke up over TX due to insulation damage to the wing on takeoff. Spaceflight is dangerous, and your number can come up, or you can just be "close". 

LOTS and LOTS of detail about spacewalking, Hubble, the difficulties of doing repairs, the expense but huge payoff in exploration of the Hubble. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but unless you are a significant space / engineering junkie, you are not likely to make it through. 

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