Cobber Alumnus Coordinates Final Shuttle Mission

As the space shuttle Atlantis took its final flight, Lt. Col. Paul Gallaher ’89, Melbourne, Fla., was standing by in the shuttle support operations center. His thoughts were focused on the safety of the astronauts.

Gallaher has provided support for the last 13 space missions with humans aboard. This was the second mission he coordinated and a historical one, as it marked the conclusion of the U.S. space shuttle program.

“It’s emotional,” he says. “It is the end of an era for NASA.”

Gallaher spent the past few months preparing for this mission, and he and his team tracked the astronauts 24 hours a day until they returned to Earth on July 21.

He has trained people in several states and many countries to receive the shuttle in case of an emergency landing. He takes his job seriously – he personally knows each of the astronauts.

“If something goes wrong, I work with the team at the space center in Houston to make sure places around the world are ready for landing,” says Gallaher, who has served with the Air Force for the past 22 years.

Gallaher set his sights on flight early on. He majored in political science at Concordia while taking advantage of the Tri-College partnership to finish his ROTC training.

“I appreciated having the small campus,” says Gallaher, “while having all the opportunities between the three schools.”

He credits his education at Concordia and all the encouragement he received from his professors in helping him launch his career – he pursued two master’s degrees after graduation.

Gallaher’s work is not done with Atlantis resting again on U.S. soil. He is a part of a team that is investigating the vehicles that may carry astronauts in the future.

“I’m excited for the future vehicles,” he says. “I hope kids around the world will see astronauts launching into space again and use that as a vision for their lives to do the best they can.”