Michael Leinbach served as the final Space Shuttle Launch Director at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. He led the launch team for all shuttle missions from August 2000 to the end of the program in 2011, giving the final “go” for every launch. He is the coauthor, with Jonathan Ward, of Bringing Columbia Home: The Final Mission of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew (Arcade, 2018).
Mike joined NASA in 1984 and quickly ascended through the engineering and leadership ranks, becoming 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 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 Kennedy Space Center. 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.