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How did Michael Phelps’ Swim Cap End Up in Space?

posted: 07/20/17
by: SharkWeek.com Staff
Mike Massimino and Michael Phelps
Getty

Astronauts have a habit of taking personal talismans into space with them. One of them took Michael Phelps swim cap. The astronaut who stowed this item in his cargo had his reasons. The fact that Michael Phelps got his swim cap back from this journey - a cap that had orbited the Earth - brings this amazing story full circle.

The astronaut in question is Michael Massimino who took the cap with him on the last of his two Shuttle missions servicing the Hubble telescope. Swimming was kind of a "thing" for Mike who has admitted when he received his acceptance letter into the astronaut training program he didn't know how to swim.

This was bad news for Mike because a swim test was the first challenge the new astronaut class would face.

You don't just give up your dream of flying into space because you hate the water, so Mike went to the pool every day with his kids and practiced his swimming. And later at Johnson Space Center with more practice and teamwork, he and the entire class passed.

At the time of Mike's first flight in 2002, 17-year old Michael "The Flying Fish" Phelps was already becoming a world swimming icon. Phelps had already swum in the Olympics and had earned a World Gold Medal and three Pan Pacific Gold Medals.

When Mike was getting ready for his last flight in 2009 he asked his son Daniel what he should take as his personal item. As a swimmer and a fan, he knew: "Michael Phelps' cap." Connections were made, the cap procured and it orbited the Earth on the Space Shuttle Atlantis 197 times.

What a perfect item! An object that had a connection to Mike's determination at the start of his career and had been a part of Phelps' meteoric rise in the sport.

After landing, Mike and Daniel caught up with Phelps at the at the 2009 USA Swimming National Championships, and presented him with the cap that had been to space and back, sharing something that surely could be called a wow moment for both heroes.

Did having a cap that went to space having anything to do with Michael Phelps going on to win 28 Olympic Gold Medals? That's between Phelps, Mike Massimino and the stars.

The world will be watching Michael Phelps' biggest race yet: Phelps vs. Shark Sunday July 23, 8p on Discovery.

Mike Massimino will be exploring space again with Science Channel as he hosts the special Great American Eclipse Monday, August 21 9p and an upcoming series to be announced soon.

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