10:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Astronaut Mike Massimino Orbits 'The Big Bang Theory'
Howard will get some real space cred on Thursday's episode of The Big Bang Theory.
NASA astronaut Mike Massimino guest stars as himself in the installment that features Simon Helberg's alter ego inch closer to his spring launch to the International Space Station as a payload specialist.
In the episode, Howard will not-so-modestly show off a press release that notes his participation in the voyage -- and his quest to earn a nickname from his fellow astronauts, including Massimino.
"Astronauts cannot pick their nicknames and can only get their nicknames from other astronauts," Massimino tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Any astronaut who tries to give himself a cool nickname will regret it by getting just the opposite from his astronaut friends."
Massimino -- a veteran of two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope -- says that he was a fan of the show before booking the cameo gig and notes that Howard's cleverness would make him a "great person to fly with in space."
As for what NASA thinks of Howard's antics on the series -- which include a designing a (malfunctioning) space toilet -- Massimino says they're "very supportive" of the show and appreciate the references to NASA and science. "Everyone loves Howard's shenanigans."
While he may not offer advice to Howard on his astro-nickname, Massimino suggests the character keep in touch with his mother and fiancé -- via email, Videocon and Space Station telephone -- while in space. "Or else coming back to Earth might be difficult since he will get an earful," he says.
The Big Bang Theory airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS. Watch a preview below.