University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Cullen College Alum Aboard Atlantis


Toby Weber
Cullen College Alum Aboard Atlantis
The four STS-135 astronauts wave to media and employees cheering them on in front of the Astronaut Crew Quarters in the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.From left: STS-135 Mission Specialists and UH alum Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Commander Chris Ferguson. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully began the program’s final mission today, and Cullen College of Engineering alumnus Rex Walheim was onboard.

Walheim earned his master’s degree in industrial engineering from the college in 1989. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and went on his first space flight in 2002.

Following that initial mission, Walheim said his decision to enroll at UH was driven by a lifelong goal to be an astronaut. “I was working here [in Houston] as a lieutenant in the Air Force as a flight controller for the shuttle program when a friend of mine told me about this master’s program that he was starting in industrial engineering. It seemed to me it would open some doors for me in the future, so I decided before I committed to it I’d try a class. I tried it, and I enjoyed the class, so I kept with it and decided to go through the whole program and get the degree,” he said in a 2002 Parameters article.

As a mission specialist and one of only four crew members chosen for the STS-135 mission, Walheim will assist in the shuttle’s task of delivering equipment and supplies to the International Space Station, as well as investigate a system for robotically refueling spacecraft.

In an interview on the NASA website, Walheim explained how honored he was to be named as a crewmember for the final space shuttle mission. “I wanted to somehow be a part of the last mission, whether I was helping in mission control, helping down at the Cape or helping at one of the abort sites, I just love the space shuttle program and I just want a chance to be a part of the last mission. And to find out I was assigned to it was really tremendously exciting because I just, like I say, I enjoy this program so much, I want to be there till the last wheel stop, and to think that I’ll be riding on the vehicle till the last wheel stop is really an incredible opportunity and I’m very thankful for [it],” he said.


Related News Stories

Photos: Spring 2019 UH Engineering Commencement Ceremony

The University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering celebrated the graduation of more than 600 engineers on Thursday, May 9 at the Fertitta Center.

The proud graduates earned: 427 bachelor’s degrees, 141 master’s degrees and 45 doctorate degrees.

The keynote address was delivered by Chang Oh Turkmani, managing director at the Mega Company and a member of the Engineering Leadership Board (ELB).

Photos: 30th Annual UH Engineering Crawfish Boil Kicks off OTC

The UH Cullen College of Engineering hosted its 30th annual Offshore Industry Crawfish Boil on Sunday, May 5 at Lynn Eusan Park.

Thousands of alumni, faculty, students and industry leaders gathered to network and mingle as they enjoyed crawfish, bbq, beer, drinks and live music.

Since its inception, the annual spring event has raised over $1 million to benefit engineering scholarship and academic programs.

Upcoming Events / Seminars