Space Shuttle An Iowa State University graduate has a key role in next week’s space shuttle launch. Joel Montalbano is NASA’s lead flight director for the mission, which will see the shuttle Endeavour blast off next Tuesday for a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Montalbano is a Chicago native who got his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State in 1988.  He’ll preside over the most critical phases of the mission, including the installation of new segments on the station and the replacement of a control gyroscope, which keeps the station in orbit.

As lead flight director, Montalbano guides a team of flight directors, flight controllers, engineering experts and support staff from NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston.

During the mission, he’ll be doing plenty of talking with another ISU alum. Nebraska native Clayton Anderson is an astronaut who’s among the space station’s current crew of three.

Audio: Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley reports. :44 MP3