HALL OF FAME
E-Mail: Museum Director
Mr. Alex Paczynski
Space Harbor Project Manager
Mr. Alex Paczynski was born in Niagara Falls, New York
in 1931. He attended high school there and later earned a Bachelor of Science
degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati.
Subsequently he earned a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering
from New Mexico State University.
Mr. Paczynski was introduced to White Sands in 1956 when he
worked for the Douglas Aircraft Company as the test director on the Nike
Hercules missile program. During a four year period at White Sands, Paczynski
oversaw more than 100 missile firings for Douglas.
In 1964 Mr. Paczynski came back to New Mexico when he
joined the NASA White Sands Test Facility on the west boundary of the missile
In the 1970s when NASA started looking for a site to train space shuttle
pilots, Mr. Paczynski took it upon himself to propose the missile range's Northrup
Strip as a training site, He convinced the NASA training program that the
strip would be ideal for their needs. They liked it and he then went about
convincing other NASA managers, and the two main non-NASA players, White Sands
Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.
Mr. Paczynski was persuasive. According to Christopher
Kraft, former director of the NASA Johnson Space Center, "The landing strip
has been used extensively by the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA), a modified
Gulfstream transport. In fact, every Shuttle commander and pilot has practiced
their landing approach at the range provided by this facility."
Paczynski earned himself the job as program manager for Northrup Strip.
Next Mr. Paczynski convinced NASA and military officials
that the strip could, with just a few upgrades, handle real shuttle landings.
According to Major General Niles Fulwyler, former commander of White Sands
Missile Range, "It was Al who first envisioned the possibility of making
Northrup Strip an alternate landing site for the space shuttle. He was
confronted with many obstacles, both political and physical, but by his total
dedication and perseverance, ultimately his vision came true."
By the time the First shuttle mission flew, Northrup
Strip was ready, Then, on March 30, 1982, after its third flight, the shuttle
Columbia landed at Northrup Strip.
The U.S. Congress changed the name of Northrup Strip to
the White Sands Space Harbor after the landing.
Mr. Paczynski continued to manage the Space Harbor until he
retired from government service in 1995. According to MG Fulwyler, it was because
of Mr. Paczynski's vision that NASA and White Sands Missile Range have such a
first class training and landing facility for the shuttle program.
Mr. Paczynski, his wife Audrey and son Doug live in Las
Cruces, New Mexico.