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2009 ENE Outstanding Alumni Awards

Gary C. Horlacher

BSE IDE, SYSTEMS ENGINEERING, 1989

Flight Director

Johnson Space Center, NASA

ONE OF FOUR NEW FLIGHT DIRECTORS announced by NASA this past May, Gary C. Horlacher is a member of a select group of individuals charged with leading human spaceflights from Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

With a bachelor’s degree through IDE (systems engineering) from Purdue, Mr. Horlacher launched his career in 1989 with Rockwell Space Operations Company as a Space Shuttle Fight Controller in the Instrumentation and Communications (INCO) discipline. He earned a master’s in space sciences from the University of Houston, Clear Lake, in 1995, then joined the Hughes Information Technology Systems Company as a System Engineer (1996-97) on the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System HIJ Program.
 
Mr. Horlacher joined the United Space Alliance in 1997 and served as Group Lead for INCO from 2002 to 2003. He then joined the Space Shuttle Upgrades Program Office, providing senior technical leadership for the Vehicle Health Monitoring System Project proposed to replace an original shuttle system that was critical to confirming the root cause of the Columbia disaster. His professional contributions earned him, in 2003, NASA’s Silver Snoopy Award—an “astronaut’s choice” award for NASA and contractor employees who greatly enhance flight safety and mission success for the space shuttle program. From 2004 to 2005, Mr. Horlacher worked for Lockheed Space Systems Company’s Advanced Space Transportation Systems division, joining the Johnson Space Center the following year as a civil servant and the communications and tracking operations lead for NASA’s Constellation Program.
 
Since 1989, Mr. Horlacher has supported 75 space shuttle missions from the Mission Control Center, and his appointment as flight director (he is currently in training) brings to 28 the number of active NASA flight directors. Leading a team of flight controllers, support personnel, and engineering experts, a flight director has the overall responsibility to manage and carry out shuttle flights and space station expeditions. Only 77 people have served as NASA flight directors, or are in training to do so, in the nearly 50 years of human spaceflight.
 
Mr. Horlacher lives in Clear Lake, Texas, with his wife, Eleanor, and son, Ryan.