Timothy Lord for Slashdot: Hi. Go ahead.
Tom: Tom Moser, been in the human spaceflight business since 1963, began as a design engineer at the Johnson Space Center, with the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston in those days, worked on, been involved let me put it that way, in every human spaceflight program from Mercury to Gemini, to shuttles, to space stations, and here we are today, and even in the private sector. Started as design engineer worked up to be director of engineering and manager in the shuttle program, first program director on the space station and began that program, and then got into the private sector, commercial space business.
Slashdot: This is a silly question maybe, but can you pick out a favorite, of what program was the most either fun or satisfying to work on?
Tom: Yeah, the most satisfying and probably the highlight of my entire career was seeing Shuttle because I began on Space shuttle in 1969, so I worked on it from sketch pad to launch pad, so from ’69 to ’81 when it was finally launched and in seeing that vehicle come alive, okay, I happened to be at the Cape it was like the thrill of my entire professional career. And then I stayed involved in that program until 1989, went to Washington D.C. after the Challenger accident, because there were a lot of people trying to kill it, so I went there and I hope I kept it alive for another number of years.
Slashdot: Did you start out with ambitions to be an astronaut as well?
Tom: No, at one time I wanted to be an astronaut, put my name in the pot, threw my name in the hat, got to the top 10% but didn’t make it so I was always in the design and development side of it.
Slashdot: Seems pretty exciting anyway.
Tom: It was pretty exciting yes, fantastic career. Very, very challenging. Technically, politically you name it.
Slashdot: The reason I am talking to you right now is that you just have been talking in Austin, Texas a little about space governance, and obviously this is something you have some taste for and experience with, because you have worked with the political side of space.
Tom: Yeah, the space governance thing has been very interesting. As technology has evolved from Apollo, it was a very very complex technical program, very very simple politically and from a governance standpoint. Because there was one institution involved—that was the United States Government. Everybody was behind that program. From the president, to the congress to the people. So Apollo happened, okay. As things evolved Space Station came along, technologically it was very simple, it became very complex from a governance standpoint. Congress wanted to micromanage. Other people, the public, was not very interested in the program. So it was extremely difficult to get through. So you kind of balance technical and political governance complexity as programs evolve.
Space Station got more complex by having at that time, when I ran the program, 11 international partners in it, I think it was up to 15 different countries now involved so you can see the political complexity. And as we look toward the future, going back to the Moon or going to Mars any government program that has been projected and costs have been hundreds of billions of dollars. I don’t think the United States is going to do that, as a matter of fact, I will submit that they will not, pay for anything like it, nor should we. So that’s going to involve other international partners to help do that. So then you think, how in the world can we manage something like it? Probably not the same way it is done in Space Station. The United States is leading that effort but there is never any money exchanged between the countries, but still the United States is the lead country. I think probably in going back to the Moon or to Mars, is going to require a lot of resources. I think it is going to have be an international consortium, an authority created special authorities work like that well, in Europe, CERN works extremely well that way with nuclear research. In the United States it works that well in port authorities like New York City and New Jersey. And in a microcosm, and in Kerrville where I live we have an airport that was difficult to manage between the city and the county--both owned it, so we created an airport authority. We give them the budget, they have their budget, they manage it, and they operate it, it works fantastic. So I think having an international authority if you are going to the moon, an international lunar authority, okay, something of that type, member nations where they all contribute a certain amount with a long-term commitment, if you have a long term commitment for anybody then you can get the private sector to be in there, they can put capital at risk, they are not going to put capital at risk if they can’t see some stability in it, or some way to protect their investment and to make money. So I think something like that is the model of governance that makes a lot of sense to me.