Kennedy Biographies

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Michael D. Leinbach
Shuttle Launch Director
Shuttle Processing Directorate

Michael D. Leinbach is the Shuttle Launch Director at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. He is responsible for overall Shuttle launch countdown policy, planning, and execution activities.

Leinbach joined NASA in 1984 as a structural engineer in the Design Engineering Directorate. He served as a lead design engineer for a variety of launch pad systems including the Orbiter Weather Protection and Emergency Egress Slide Wire systems. In 1988, he became a NASA Test Director (NTD) in the Shuttle Management and Operations Directorate (presently, Shuttle Processing Directorate). As an NTD, Leinbach was responsible for directing all daily operations at Launch Complex 39. Concurrently, he was chairman of the Emergency Egress and Rescue Working Group. In 1991, he was named Shuttle Test Director, conducting the terminal countdown and launch of 17 Shuttle missions and was responsible for all prelaunch planning activities involving the Shuttle launch countdown.

From January 1998 to May 2000, Leinbach served as the deputy director of the Space Station Hardware Integration Office, where he was responsible for all International Space Station (ISS) component processing at KSC and contractor manufacturing locations. Leinbach also oversaw the development and execution of the Multi-Element Integrated Test Program, which verified the functionality and operability of the first phase of the ISS program in a configuration, on the ground, as close to the on-orbit final assembly as possible.

Leinbach was tapped to serve as Assistant Launch Director in May 2000 and was named Launch Director in August 2000. He has led the Launch Team for all Shuttle missions since then, serving as the person to give the final "go" for launch. He also serves as the senior operations expert for NASA for all Shuttle flight elements and ground support equipment processing issues.

Immediately following the Columbia accident in February 2003, Leinbach lead the initial debris recovery effort in Texas and Louisiana. Shortly thereafter, he was named to lead the Columbia Reconstruction Team chartered to determine the cause of the accident based solely on the debris collected and reassembled at KSC. He was also the driving force behind the Columbia Preservation Team and development of the plan to lend debris to academia for study with the goal of developing better and safer spacecraft in the future.

In November 2004, Leinbach was awarded the prestigious 2004 Presidential Rank Award. He has received numerous group achievement and performance awards, including NASA's Exceptional Service Medal in 1993 for his leadership in planning and conducting Shuttle launch countdowns and NASA's Medal for Outstanding Leadership in May 2003 for significant contributions to the Space Shuttle Program.

Born in Reading, Pa., he graduated in 1971 from Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va. He received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1976 and a Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering with emphasis in structural dynamics in 1981 from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

Leinbach and his wife Charlotte reside in Scottsmoor, Fla.

May 2006

Biographies - Current Employees