Mike Massimino, "Mass," has written a captivating memoir of his quest to become an astronaut and his life serving as an astronaut with NASA. He paints a clear picture for us of the 7-year-old boy in his homemade astronaut outfit clutching the Snoopy astronaut doll that his big brother gave him. Then he takes us through the events that encouraged him to pursue that dream and the obstacles he overcame in order to become a "spaceman." Everything from his fear of heights, passing the qualifying exam for his Ph.D. program, the freeze on flights after the Challenger was lost, and even the problem of correcting his eyesight are shown and put into the path of that small boy making his way to the shuttle.
One of the things that really makes the book enjoyable is the "guy next door" personality of Mass. As he says, he was the most all-around in situations his whole life. He was the guy good enough at sports to talk to the jocks, the kid whose grades were good enough to hang with the smart students, etc. And that ability to fit in and be genuinely interested in other people is what we see as he tells his story. He pulls us in and makes us a part of his circle of friends.
Another fun thing is the references to pop culture. He talks about his reaction to watching the moon landing, "The Right Stuff," and other space related media up to the movie "Armageddon" and his own cameo appearances on "The Big Bang Theory." He mentions books he enjoyed as a child like the science fiction of Jules Verne, and the musical groups he loaded on his iPod to listen to during his shuttle missions. Mass even discusses what it was like to be the first astronaut to tweet from space. (Check out his Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/astro_mike.)
But the thing that really comes through is his love for space and his feeling of belonging to the greatest team that you could possibly want to join. Anecdotes about the ways in which the space community - and the astronauts in particular - support each other, are crowded into the pages. Mass credits his father and watching him work with the New York Fire Department with building his belief that "whatever you do in life, it can't just be about making money. It's important that you work to make the world a better place, that you help improve the lives of the people around you." And he also helps us grasp the majesty of space, the image of the Earth as a spaceship carrying us all, and the drive to expand human knowledge.
I will warn you that many of the stories will make you teary-eyed, or downright make you cry. I went through lots of Kleenex reading about the loss of the Columbia, his father's fight with cancer, and the other sad events. But I also teared up over his triumphs like making the cut to become an astronaut in training or his first spacewalk. This is a story that you cannot read without responding to it.
You may check the publisher's website for more information about the book and an author biography.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.