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Former astronaut Mike Massimino discusses his memoir, the 2018 Long Island Reads pick

Astronaut Michael Massimino, who grew up in Franklin

Astronaut Michael Massimino, who grew up in Franklin Square, during his 2002 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

Mike Massimino knows what it’s like to shoot for the stars. He grew up working class in Franklin Square, pursued the far-fetched dream of spaceflight and has been on two missions to the Hubble Space Telescope. His memoir, “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlocking the Secrets of the Universe” (Three Rivers, $16 paperback), has been selected for this year’s Long Island Reads program, with events at libraries throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. Massimino’s talk at the Patchogue Theatre on Sunday, April 15, is sold out, but there will be a standby line. He spoke with Newsday by telephone; the conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What made the childhood dream of becoming an astronaut seem attainable as an adult?

In my senior year of college I went to see the movie “The Right Stuff,” and it rekindled my interest. I started learning more about what was going on in the space program at that time. I noticed that it wasn’t just military test pilots, that with the shuttle program came the first astronauts of color, the first women working to become astronauts, there were people who had similar backgrounds to me.

What was it like sending the first tweet from space?

NASA had this idea that it would be interesting to get into social media as a way to share experiences and get information out there to the public. I started [tweeting] about a month before the launch, and I was able to talk about the experiences I was going through in training and what it was like getting ready to launch, and then I was able to send that first tweet from space. It’s a way for the public to engage with what we’re doing.

What is the strangest thing about acclimating to space?

Everything’s floating — you float, your stuff floats, you try to take an aspirin, and it’s going to be floating. You get used to that — and then you come back to Earth and you’ve got to get used to gravity again!

Why is your story important to share with future generations of astronauts?

I get notes from lots of people every day about how “Spaceman” has been meaningful to them in different ways. I wasn’t really sure when writing the book how it would all turn out — it’s about what it’s like to fly in space, teamwork, friendships, leadership — but it’s also this element of realizing a dream. And that’s probably what stands out most to readers.


A partial listing of the week’s events; check with your local library to find out what else is scheduled this month.

Tuesday, April 10 Discussion of “Spaceman.” At 7 p.m., Jericho Public Library, 1 Merry Lane, Jericho; 516-935-6790,

Thursday, April 12 Learn about past, present and future missions to Mars with retired aerospace engineer David Paris. At 7 p.m., Patchogue-Medford Library, 54-60 E. Main St., Patchogue; 631-654-4700,

Saturday, April 14 Discussion of “Spaceman.” At 11 a.m., The Hampton Library, 2478 Main St., Bridgehampton; 631-537-0015,

Sunday, April 15 Mike Massimino discusses his memoir, “Spaceman.” Event sold out, standby tickets may be available. Doors open at 1 p.m., talk at 2 p.m., Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 E. Main St., Patchogue; 631-207-1313,

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