AE Alumnus to pilot Space Shuttle
In his first space flight, Aerospace Engineering alumnus Lee "Bru" Archambault (BS 1982, MS 1984) will pilot NASA’s shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station on June 8. A U.S. Air Force colonel, Archambault will serve as both shuttle pilot and orbiter robotic arm operator.
Archambault joined the U.S. Air Force in 1985 and has logged over 4,250 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft, including the F-117A Stealth Fighter. He guided that craft through 22 combat missions in the Gulf War between 1990 and 1991. Later he served as an instructor pilot and test pilot to aid aircraft weapons development before joining NASA in June 1998.
"It's been a long time, and we're certain it's going to be worth the wait," Archambault told reporters of the upcoming launch in a preflight interview. He noted that fear of failure is a considerable motivator for a pilot.
When I fly the shuttle for the first time, I’ll be focused on doing my job and doing it correctly. That is how I will take my experience as a military pilot and channel those experiences to succeed in a space shuttle.
Archambault considers Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan--from Archambault's hometown of Bellwood, Illinois--to be his inspiration. Cernan led the Apollo 17 mission of 1972 and was the last explorer to walk on the moon.
"He generated a lot of interest in the space program in our home town," Archambault said in a NASA interview. "I have to believe that a lot of my personal interest in the space program came from growing up in Bellwood where Eugene Cernan was the main deal back in the 1960s and 1970s."
Although there is inherent risk in human spaceflight, Archambault stressed that police officers, firefighters, and U.S. soldiers currently engaged overseas face dangerous jobs on a daily basis, which puts his own mission challenges in perspective.
"You know, I don't think about the danger part of it too often," Archambault said. "If we're going to continue to be who we are as Americans and explore beyond the confines of our country, beyond the confines of our world, we're going to have to take some risk."
That risk, Archambault believes, is worth the effort of NASA and its partners to complete the International Space Station's construction push further outwards back towards the Moon.
"It's an honor to be here and simply put, that's all I can say on that," Archambault said. "We're going to leave this planet; we're going to go back to the Moon."
Among Archambault's honors and awards are the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster), Aerial Achievement Medal (4th Oak Leaf Cluster), Commendation Medal (1st Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Force Achievement Medal, Combat Readiness Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, and Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. He has received the Distinguished Graduate and Liethen-Tittle Award (top graduate) from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and is a Distinguished Graduate from the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School.