A seasoned astronaut charts the trajectory of his love affair with space and astronomy.
Massimino’s memoir is a smooth combination of personal history and immersive storytelling. Motivated by a childhood preoccupation with space exploration and astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and John Glenn, the author developed an obsession for the “reality of space travel” in his early years growing up on Long Island. Intensive academic studies at Columbia and MIT strengthened his resolve to pursue the space program—as did the tragedy of the 1986 Challenger explosion. Being accepted into the NASA space program (and overcoming some eyesight correction issues) made his dreams come true. Massimino writes of training for six years prior to embarking on his first interstellar mission aboard the NASA space shuttle Columbia in 2002 on a mission to rendezvous with the Hubble Space Telescope. Yet even with training on his side, the author admits that, as a rookie astronaut, “nothing you do on this planet can ever truly prepare you for what it means to leave it.” He also suspensefully re-creates his second mission into space to repair the telescope in 2008. Written in affable, conversational prose, the book delivers a sensory buffet of sights, sounds, and inspired images with an appealing urgency. Like Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, Massimino’s memoir is stuffed with fascinating details about the unforeseen complications of weightlessness, the zero-gravity experience, and the intricate physical, psychological, and “gut-dropping, nerve-racking, panic-inducing situations” involved in the flight-readiness training program and actual spaceflight itself. Even readers with just a casual interest in space travel will find themselves glued to the page as the author braids a childhood dream and a desire to make a positive impact on the space program with the ambition and bravery required to be blasted 350 miles into low Earth orbit. Massimino makes having “the right stuff” both breathtaking and formidable.
A vivid, engrossing, and enthusiastically written memoir of aeronautic ambition.