The first astronaut who tweeted from space is leaving NASA, the agency announced yesterday. Mike Massimino (best known to his 1.29 million followers as @astro_mike) — and also one of several astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope — will now bring his skills to a full-time position with Columbia University in New York.
“Mike embraced the opportunity to engage with the public in new ways and set the stage for more space explorers to be able to share their mission experience directly with people around the globe,” stated Bob Behnken, NASA’s chief of the astronaut office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“We wish him well in his new role fostering the dreams and innovations of students just beginning their career paths,” he said.
Massimino found time to embrace Twitter, then a new technology to NASA, during the busy STS-125 mission that was the final repair mission for the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. Here’s the first tweet from space:
From orbit: We see 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hrs, each one spectacular as the sun lights up the atmosphere in a spectrum of colors
— Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) May 19, 2009
Following his social media activities in space, which received a great deal of publicity at the time, Massimino appeared several times on the CBS comedy “The Big Bang Theory” as a fictionalized version of himself. He also was prominently featured in the IMAX film Hubble 3D in 2010, which in part featured the spacewalking missions to repair the iconic NASA telescope.
While the astronaut has not yet made a statement on Twitter, NASA paid tribute to him on its own Twitter account, as did others:
— NASA (@NASA) July 29, 2014
— Nicole Cloutier (@NicoleAtNASA) July 30, 2014
— David Weaver (@DavidWeaver) July 29, 2014
— Bob Behnken (@Chief_Astronaut) July 29, 2014
Nice farewell words to the astronaut office from @Astro_Mike yesterday. Great to share an office with him on multiple occasions! Good luck!
— Ricky Arnold (@astro_ricky) July 29, 2014
— Lauren B Worley (@SpaceLauren) July 29, 2014