Rex Walheim is a United States Air Force officer and a NASA astronaut. He was born Rex Joseph Walheim on October 10, 1962 in Redwood City, California. He graduated from San Carlos High School in 1980 and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. Upon his graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. The following April, he was assigned to work as a missile warning operations crew commander at Cavalier Air Force Station in North Dakota. In October 1986, he was reassigned to the Johnson Space Center and worked as a mechanical systems flight controller and lead operations engineer for the Space Shuttle landing gear. After receiving a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston in 1989, Walheim was transferred to Headquarters Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado to manage a program upgrading missile warning radars. In 1992, he attended USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB in California, and after his graduation, he was assigned to the F-16 Combined Test Force as a project manager and commander. In January 1996, Walheim became an instructor at USAF Test Pilot School and remained there until he began training as an astronaut.
In March 1996, Walheim was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate and reported to the Johnson Space Center the following August. After two years of training and evaluation, he qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on future space flights. His initial assignments were technical duties in the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch. In 2002, Walheim traveled to space for the first time on STS-110 aboard shuttle Atlantis. They launched on April 8, 2002 and became the 13th Shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. During their time in space, the crew delivered and installed S-Zero Truss as well as used the station’s robotic arm for the first time to maneuver Walheim’s spacewalks. It was a successful mission that ended on April 19, 2002. Later that year, he became an aquanaut on the joint NASA-NOAA NEEMO 4 expedition, which was held in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research laboratory. Walheim and his crew spent five days working and training underwater.
In 2008, Walheim went to space for a second time as a mission specialist, this time on STS-122. The mission launched on February 7 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis as the 24th shuttle mission to the International Space Station. The crew successfully delivered the European-built Columbus to the ISS. Walheim performed three spacewalks in a total of 22 hours before the mission landed back on Earth on February 20, 2008. His final mission to space was as a mission specialist on STS-135. The mission launched on July 8, 2011 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis while carrying the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. The crew delivered thousands of pounds of supplies and spare parts to the ISS, as well as the robotic refueling module. They also picked up a failed ammonia pump and brought it back to help NASA improve future designs. The mission was Atlantis’ final flight to space and concluded on July 21, 2011 after more than 30 years of service.
Walheim is married to Margie Dotson and has two children. He has received many awards, including a Meritorious Service Medal, two Air Force Commendation Medals, an Aerial Achievement Medal, and distinction as the 20th member of the “Rex Streak” on the Jim Rome radio show.
Image Caption: NASA astronaut Rex Walheim, mission specialist. Credit: NASA/Bill Stafford/Wikipedia