Mike Leinbach was the final Shuttle Launch Director at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida. He was responsible for overall Shuttle launch countdown policy, planning, and execution activities for the last eleven years of the program.
Mike joined NASA in 1984 as a structural engineer working on launch pad upgrades for the Space Shuttle Program. He became the Deputy Director of the International Space Station program office at KSC in 1998, and became the Shuttle Launch Director in August 2000. He led the Launch Team for all Shuttle missions from then to the end of the program in 2011, serving as the person to give the final “Go!” for launch.
Mike led KSC’s forces in the initial Columbia debris recovery effort in Texas and Louisiana in February 2003. Shortly thereafter, he led the Columbia Reconstruction Team to determine the cause of the accident from the debris collected and reassembled at KSC. He was the driving force behind the Columbia Preservation Team and the plan to lend debris to academia to develop better and safer spacecraft in the future. His book, “Bringing Columbia Home”, tells the inside story of the mammoth effort of the 25,000 Americans that helped find Columbia’s debris and reconstruct it.
His many service awards include the Presidential Rank Award, NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, and NASA’s Medal for Outstanding Leadership. Mike retired from NASA in 2011. Currently, Mike leads the new Launch Director Tour at Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex. Participants in the tour have a unique opportunity to visit KSC’s facilities and hear first-hand about the risks and rewards of the Space Shuttle Program.
Mike attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1976, and a Master of Engineering degree with emphasis in Structural Mechanics in 1981. He and his wife Charlotte reside in Scottsmoor, Florida.