About the storied NASA astronaut: Mike Massimino

On the 12th May 2009, former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino became the first person to tweet from space whilst taking part in the STS-125 Atlantis mission:

“From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!”

But his journey into space began years earlier than the famed tweet. His story starts in 1996, when he was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate, ultimately leading him to embark aboard space shuttle Columbia as part of the STS-109 mission in 2002.

Ørsted is honoured to share Mike’s experience in space with you through our Space Safari project. Take part in your own virtual space mission; Space Safari, guided by Mike himself, and learn more about his experiences and memories of space. As you ascend to over one hundred kilometres above sea level and into space, Mike hopes to communicate that we all need to play a role in securing the future of our planet as you experience one of the rarest sensations in the universe: the Overview Effect.

Whether you have chosen Mike to be your co-astronaut during your space mission, or are interested in Mike’s story, you can learn more about Mike Massimino below.

How did Mike Massimino become an astronaut?

Following an illustrious academic career during which he helped to develop a range of space exploration technologies, Mike was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in May 1996. He began his training as an astronaut in August 1996 at the Johnson Space Center as part of Astronaut Group 16, known as “The Sardines” - a nickname given due to the large size of the 44-person class.

The next two years of Massimino’s life were spent undergoing rigorous physical and mental training, at the end of which he qualified as a mission specialist. At this stage, he went on to work in the Astronaut Office Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Branch and the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch of NASA. Before his first space mission, Mike also served in the CAPCOM branch that deals with spacecraft communication.

Mike’s experience in space

Mike first left Earth on the 1st March 2002, taking part in the fourth mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope (the STS-109 Columbia mission). Operating as a mission specialist, Mike and the 7-person crew performed critical servicing and refurbishment work on the telescope itself - all in the vacuum of space.

The STS-109 Columbia mission set a new record for the longest spacewalk time. Over the course of five spacewalks, the crew spent almost 36 hours outside of the spacecraft; Mike personally clocked a total of 14 hours and 46 minutes across two spacewalks.

Mike returned to the black seven years later as a crewmember on the STS-125 Atlantis mission - a further service and refurbishment mission. The mission was a resounding success; the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3 were installed, whilst the Fine Guidance Sensor was replaced, leaving the HST in its most advanced state since the original launch.

Mike’s experience of the Overview Effect

Mike’s incredible encounters in space have left a marked impression, instilling in him a unique sense of admiration for the planet we all call home. This sensation is known as the ‘Overview Effect,’ - a profound and life-altering moment many astronauts have experienced when gazing back upon the Earth from the depths of space. Whilst no two interpretations are the same, Mike describes his own experience of the Overview Effect during his guided commentary to the Space Safari virtual reality experience:

“The first time I saw Earth from Space, I thought it was an absolute paradise and we’re so lucky to be able to live here. It made me realise that, despite our differences, we are all in the same boat – or spaceship – and it gave me a sense of great connection with every living thing on that tiny pale blue dot.”

These incredible adventures made it clear to Mike how critical it was to protect the planet, and he hopes to share the urgency and desire to work together in looking after our home. Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino invites you to experience the Overview Effect for yourselves through Ørsted’s 360-degree virtual reality space flight.

With Mike as your co-pilot, The Space Safari project will take you one hundred kilometres above sea level to see our home from a unique perspective, so you can experience even just a fraction of what he saw as he floated above the Earth. Ready to experience space in the same way that Mike did? Embark on our virtual space mission and see planet Earth like never before. 3… 2… 1… liftoff!

In total, Mike spent exactly 571 hours and 47 minutes in space.

Meet our astronauts

Helen Sharman

On  May 1991, Helen Sharman, aged just 27, became the first British astronaut to travel into space. as part of Project Juno, a private British space programme.