by Jeff Foust
|A fellow astronaut took him aside and informed him of “Hoot’s Law,” named after astronaut Hoot Gibson: “No matter how bad things may seem, you can always make it worse.”
Massimino has crafted a persona as something close to an ordinary person: an everyman from Long Island, albeit one with an engineering PhD from MIT who went to space twice to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. “I soon found that what made my experiences relatable was the fact that I wasn’t a natural. I’m not Neil Armstrong. Or Lebron James. Or George Clooney,” he writes.
In the book, he’s open about his setbacks and mistakes he made both trying to become an astronaut as well as during his astronaut career. One example he offers in the book is when, during one of his first sessions in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, used for spacewalk training, he got tangled in a safety tether and, rather than ask for help, tried to free himself, only to get further entangled. Afterwards, he said a fellow astronaut took him aside and informed him of “Hoot’s Law,” named after astronaut Hoot Gibson: “No matter how bad things may seem, you can always make it worse.”
Not making things worse is one of the lessons that Massimino passes along in the book. Most of them seem straightforward and common sense: the value of teamwork and collaboration, speaking up if you see something wrong, and not giving up even in the face of long (but non-zero) odds. He also passed along what former astronaut Alan Bean called the “First Rule of Leadership,” which is to admire and care about every member of your team, as well as the “Thirty-Second Rule,” which is to allow yourself a half a minute to beat yourself up about making a mistake, then move on.
Those lessons seem straightforward, but the fact that astronauts have to be reminded of them is a sign that they’re hard to implement. They’re good lessons to learn, and Massimino offers them in an entertaining way. You may make many mistakes along the way, but there’s a good chance you’ll never lose a tomato on a space station or a tool bag on a spacewalk.
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