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Astronaut First to Twitter From Space

Astronauts are known for their pithy statements from space. Astronaut Michael Massimino is continuing that tradition - in an unconventional way.

Massimino, now in orbit on space shuttle Atlantis, is the first person to Twitter from space.

Despite a hectic schedule, Massimino - "Astro Mike" to his followers - has fired off nearly two dozen missives known as tweets, musing on such experiences as looking out the shuttle's windows.

Unlike the clipped, impersonal statements made by past astronauts, Astro Mike's tweets are reflective and personal, despite being limited to 140 characters.

"As I closed my eyes to sleep last night I thought, "These eyes have seen some beautiful sights today,' " Massimino, 46, wrote Wednesday.

Massimino's followers have catapulted from roughly 100,000 before his May 11 launch to more than 325,000, and the number grows "every hour," NASA spokeswoman Nicole Lemasters said.

During preflight training for his mission, which is devoted to upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope, Massimino used a handheld device to send many of his Twitter postings. Since reaching orbit, he has tapped his tweets into the shuttle's laptops and e-mailed them to Lemasters. She posts them to twitter.com/Astro_Mike.

"The one regret that I have when I look out the window and I see how beautiful the Earth looks ... is that you can't share it with everyone," Massimino said during a news conference Wednesday. His twittering "is just an attempt at doing that."

In Massimino's tweets, he describes what he sees, what he's doing and his state of mind.

"Hard to sleep last night after my spacewalk, images of the work and the views still vivid in my mind," read a Monday tweet.

During this mission, Massimino made two spacewalks to upgrade the Hubble. He also went on two spacewalks to fix the Hubble in 2002.

Massimino is not the first space traveler to tweet. The Mars Phoenix spacecraft, which landed on the Red Planet in 2008, had a Twitter account, though postings such as "Less than 20 days till I land on Mars!" were written by a NASA staffer.

During his training, NASA public affairs officials asked Massimino - a gregarious man with an outsize sense of humor - to be a Twitter guinea pig.

He accepted, he said, because "I feel very fortunate to be an astronaut. ... I like ways to share that experience."

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