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How the First 'Twitter' Astronaut Bucked All of the Norms

by Alyssa Newcomb /
Astronaut Mike Massimino works outside the Space Shuttle Atlantis during a spacewalk in 2009.NASA via AP

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Sure, we all remember the first guy to set foot on the moon, but for the Twitter generation, Mike Massimino holds a special standing as the first person to tweet from space.

"I waited until I got to orbit to be inspired to write this thing," Massimino told NBC News during a discussion onstage at the Collision Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After Saturday Night Live joked about the tweet, he said, "I finally had my kids pay attention to me when I was in space." Their advice? "Keep saying stupid stuff!"

"It was a way to share the journey, and I think it has helped a lot," Massimino said. And now, "just about every astronaut tweets from space."

Massimino also has another rare distinction, becoming one of the few astronauts to actually gain weight after noshing on space cuisine. His favorites: Shrimp cocktail, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate fudge cake.

Related: Will President Trump Invest in Space Exploration?

After his first space walk, "I started chowing down. Space food is pretty good!" Massimino said.

"Most people lose weight in space," he said. "You're kind of busy and your body gets through a lot of changes and you kind of lose your appetite a little bit."

As if that wasn't enough, Massimino revealed he actually has an intense fear of heights, something one would assume would get in the way for a guy who has completed four space walks, some of which included servicing the Hubble Telescope.

"I kind of wrote off the astronaut thing as not being a possibility," he said. "I had to deal with it... In space, because you are so far away from the planet, your perspective is so different. I never really felt like I was going to fall and hit the planet," he said.

However, on his first space walk on the Hubble Telescope, he noticed a payload bay 60 feet below and felt like "I could fall...even though I knew I was weightless."

"That primal fear took over," he said. The trick, he said, is to grab on to something to make you feel comfortable. In his case, it was a power tool.

"That helps you relax," he said. "The fear we might have learned, you have to figure out a way around it so you can do your job."

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