NASA Astronaut Helps Launch TV's 'Big Bang Theory' Finale Tonight

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An astronaut turned actor will help the cast of TV's "The Big Bang Theory" launch a character into the final frontier tonight (May 10) during the show's season finale.

Veteran NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, who had a cameo on the CBS sitcom in February, will resume his role (as himself) during tonight's season finale, which features aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz (played by Simon Helberg) facing a wedding and his own launch into space.

This week, Massimino has been posting photos online via Twitter (where he writes as @Astro_Mike) of himself with Helberg wearing spacesuits, as well as with "The Big Bang Theory" executive producer Bill Prady. Today, he reminded his followers to tune into the show.

"It should be a blast!" wrote Massimino, who was the first astronaut ever to send a Twitter post from space and has more than 1.2 million followers.

Massimino's appearance tonight and earlier in the show's season follows a story arc in which Helberg's Howard trains for a trip to the International Space Station after an experiment he designed was picked to fly in space. The character has also been juggling the duties of his upcoming wedding to fiancée Bernadette, portrayed by actress Melissa Rauch.[10 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows Ever]

"My character is going to space, and the mission has gotten sort of moved around and ends up conflicting with our wedding date," Helberg said in a behind-the-scenes video released by CBS.

"I don't want him getting on that rocket without a band on my finger," Rauch added. "I don't need him doing things with aliens and getting out of control. I want to lock it down."

In one of Massimino's photos, the astronaut, Helberg and a third actor are dressed in what appear to be Russian Sokol spacesuits and packed inside a Soyuz spacecraft.

Astronaut trivia fans take note: While Massimino is a veteran of two spaceflights, both were aboard NASA space shuttles and visited the Hubble Space Telescope. Massimino, like the Howard character, has never flown to the International Space Station.

In an earlier episode, Massimino helped give the Howard character an astronaut nickname (it's "Fruit Loops"). Massimino's nickname, unsurprisingly, is "Mass."

Massimino is one of several space-themed guest stars on "The Big Bang Theory" this season. Last month, actor Leonard Nimoy of "Star Trek" fame lent his voice to the Spock action figure of the show's Leonard character (Jim Parsons), with renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking later appearing in a cameo role.

In "The Big Bang Theory," the characters primarily work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., near NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Scientists at JPL and other NASA centers are reportedly big fans of the science-themed sitcom, according to past reports.

Massimino's episode of "The Big Bang Theory" will air Thursday (May  10) at 8/7 p.m. Central. Check local listings.

You can follow Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalikFollow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.