'Big Bang Theory' Co-Creator Taps Astronaut Mike Massimino for NBC Comedy

"The Big Bang Theory" co-creator Bill Prady (left) and former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, seen here seated in the sitcom's Soyuz spacecraft set, have reunited to develop a new comedy.
"The Big Bang Theory" co-creator Bill Prady (left) and former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, seen here seated in the sitcom's Soyuz spacecraft set, have reunited to develop a new comedy. (Image credit: CBS)

A NASA astronaut who played himself on "The Big Bang Theory" is now the inspiration for a new comedy series from the co-creator of the hit sitcom.

Mike Massimino, who in real life flew twice to space before launching with Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) to the International Space Station on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," has now reunited with Bill Prady to produce a show based on his life experiences.

"The untitled comedy explores what happens when the dream of following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and becoming an American hero collides with the reality of a cynical world and the life of a divorced dad," reported The Hollywood Reporter on Friday (Dec. 13).

Related: NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino's Space Career in Photos

Mike Massimino holds up a mission patch for his fictional flight to the International Space Station, as was part of his storyline on the CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory." (Image credit: collectSPACE.com)

Prady and Dan Greaney ("The Simpsons," "The Office") will write the script for NBC. Massimino will receive a producer credit, with Jamie Widdoes ("Mom," "Two and a Half Men") serving as executive producer.

"Excited and honored to be working with my friends Bill Prady, Jamie Widdoes and Dan Greaney — three of the most talented people on the planet!" Massimino said on Twitter on Friday.

A NASA astronaut from 1996 through 2014, Massimino launched twice on the space shuttle to service the Hubble Space Telescope. On his second mission, which was the last to upgrade the orbiting observatory in 2009, Massimino and his crewmates' activities were filmed for the IMAX movie, "Hubble 3D."

On that same mission, Massimino became the first astronaut to tweet from space, in turn leading to him becoming the first astronaut to surpass one million followers on Twitter.

Three years after his return to Earth, Massimino made his first of six appearances on "The Big Bang Theory." Playing a lightly-fictionalized version of himself, he served on the show as a crewmate and mentor to Helberg's Wolowitz, an engineer assigned to a mission on board the space station.

"It was incredible," Massimino told collectSPACE.com after his second appearance on the show in 2012. "The detail to the set, to the costumes — what we were going to wear — they wanted everything, the patches, the name tags that we were going to wear, every little detail to look as authentic as possible."

After leaving NASA in 2014, Massimino became a professor of engineering at Columbia University and senior advisor for space programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.

He penned his memoirs, "Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe," in 2016, recounting the challenges his faced before spending nearly 24 days off the planet.

"I feel like this is my third launch into space," Massimino said at the time of his book's release. "There are a lot of similarities to it, being an astronaut and being an author."

Now he is lifting off on a new mission, one that might land his life's experiences in a scripted half-hour on television — something he did not anticipate when he first appeared on "The Big Bang Theory."

"I don't really trust my Hollywood career as something I could actually sustain myself on," Massimino said in 2012. "I think it is a fun thing to do and I think it's good for NASA, but this acting thing, as fun as it is, I'm not quitting my day job."

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.