In December of 2012, former astronaut Paul Lockhart, MS ASE ’81, returned to the ASE/EM Department, where he toured labs and visited with several of our students. Along with wife Mary and daughter Marisa, Lockhart made the trip to Austin from Houston following a flight test of atmospheric sensors that his wife’s company had recently designed for the USAF. Marisa served as the team’s flight data recorder.

Paul Lockhart with students
Paul Lockhart (2nd to left) his wife Mary and daughter Marisa (3rd and 2nd to right) visit with students in the Texas Spacecraft Lab.

Their time spent in the department included introductions to members of our WIALD (Women in Aerospace for Leadership Development) organization and tours of the Air System Lab and the Texas Spacecraft Lab. The visit was inspiring to both the students and Lockhart, who says he was thoroughly impressed with our students and their work.

Lockhart has traveled a long way since his days as a UT aerospace student, logging over 5,000 hours in more than 30 different aircraft and the Space Shuttle. He has exhibited a long and successful career with both NASA and the USAF. His success in both flight-testing and industry is built on a foundation of hard work and dedication. 

He has logged over 350 hours in space as part of two missions, STS-111 and STS-113, to the International Space Station. In addition to delivering crews to and from the space station, he also helped assemble major subsections of the ISS that were assembled in orbit.

Prior to becoming an astronaut, Lockhart was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF and worked as a test pilot for high performance military aircraft. Lockhart left a permanent mark in on the USAF. During his 4-1/2 year tour at Eglin, much of America’s state-of-the-art weaponry was first tested under his guidance at the 39th Flight Test Squadron. 

Lockhart attributes his success to his education at The University of Texas at Austin.

“UT was fundamental to every part of my success,” Lockhart said. “It wasn’t just the wide selection and depth of the aerospace courses, it was foremost due to the high caliber of faculty. At UT, I found superior courses, outstanding tools and great professors. They all prepared me to be a test pilot, and eventually, to be an astronaut.”

His faculty advisor, Professor Wallace Fowler, was particularly influential.

“Dr. Fowler was key to training me to be a great test pilot,” Lockhart said. “He taught me to ask the right questions. My success as a test pilot led me to be a lead test pilot for F-16s at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in the early 1990s. It was there we tested very state of the art weaponry, including GPS guided weaponry. I can trace all that work back to my classes with Dr. Fowler. It was my success as a test pilot that directly led to my selection as an astronaut in 1996.” 

Lockhart left NASA in 2003 after the Columbia Shuttle accident. He then attended the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) in London, England, as an exchange officer in fulfillment of Air War College. The Ministry of Defence’s premier institution for grooming senior leaders in the UK military and civil fields, Col. Lockhart completed a year of Studies in International Conflict Resolution.

After graduation, he was assigned to the Air Staff, Headquarters USAF, Pentagon, where he has held the position of Director, Future Capabilities at the Air Forces Directorate of Studies and Analysis, Assessments, and Lessons Learned (HQAF/A9).

Lockhart retired from the USAF in March 2007. From February 2007 through 2008 he served as Special Assistant, Program Management, Explorations Systems Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. and as Acting Division Director, Constellation Systems Division.

After leaving NASA Headquarters, he chose to give back. As Senior Vice President of Aerospace Operations and Services at QinetiQ North America, he provides support back to NASA. His company assists NASA in a variety of ways – research and development, spacecraft testing and spacecraft preparation.

“For all those years in the military and NASA, I was the focus of all of the support,” Lockhart said. “In order to get someone into space, you have to be well supported. Both at NASA and in the Air Force when I conducted flight tests, hundreds of people would help us prepare the missions and ensure the vehicle was safe. The same was true when I flew the Space Shuttle. Now, I’m providing support to NASA.”

Lockhart enjoyed his time spent in the department visiting our students and various labs.

“The enthusiasm stood out to me the most,” Lockhart said. “The students we met with didn’t just describe their work; they told us about their sponsoring companies and how each of their projects are unique. Every group of young people, from airplane builders to satellite designers, had so much enthusiasm – which translates to a very dynamic group of students. These students are going to make a huge impact on the world – whether in the civil, commercial, or government fields.”