Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: NASA
Paine, Thomas O (1921-1992) American engineer, at General Electric, then NASA Administrator 1968-1970. His ambitious post-Apollo programs were not received well by the Nixon administration.

Official NASA Biography

Dr. Thomas O. Paine was appointed Deputy Administrator of NASA on January 31, 1968. Upon the retirement of James E. Webb on October 8, 1968, he was named Acting Administrator of NASA. He was nominated as NASA's third Administrator on March 5, 1969, and confirmed by the Senate on March 20, 1969.

During his leadership the first seven Apollo manned missions were flown, in which 20 astronauts orbited the earth, 14 traveled to the Moon and four walked upon its surface. Many automated scientific and applications spacecraft were also flown in U.S. and cooperative international programs.

Paine resigned from NASA September 15, 1970, to return to the General Electric Co. in New York City as Vice President and Group Executive, Power Generation Group, where he remained until 1976.

Paine began his career as a research associate at Stanford University from 1947 to 1949, where he made basic studies of high-temperature alloys and liquid metals in support of naval nuclear reactor programs. He joined the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York, in 1949 as research associate, where he initiated research programs on magnetic and composite materials. In 1951, he transferred to the Meter and Instrument Department, Lynn, Massachusetts, as manager of materials development, and later as laboratory manager. Under Paine's management the laboratory received the 1956 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Industrial Science from the American Association for Advancement of Science for its work in fine-particle magnet development.

From 1958 to 1962, Paine was research associate and manager of Engineering Applications at GE's Research and Development Center in Schenectady. From 1963 to 1968 he was manager of TEMPO, GE's Center for Advanced Studies in Santa Barbara, California.

Paine's professional activities have included chairmanship of the 1962 Engineering Research Foundation--Engineers Joint Council Conference on Science and Technology for Less Developed Nations; secretary and editor of the E.J.C. Committee on the Nation's Engineering Research Needs 1965-1985; member, Advisory Committee and local chairman, Joint American Physical Society--Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials; chairman, Special Task Force for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Advisory Board, AIME "Journal of Metals"; member, Basic Science Committee of IEEE, Research Committee of the Stanford University School of Engineering, and Board of Scientific Advisors of the Quarterly Journal "Research Policy."

Paine was born in Berkeley, California, November 9, 1921, son of Commodore and Mrs. George T. Paine, USN (Ret.). He attended public schools in various cities and was graduated from Brown University in 1942 with an A.B. degree in engineering. From 1946-49 Paine attended Stanford University, receiving an M.S. degree in 1947 and Ph.D. in physical metallurgy. He has received honorary doctor of science degrees from Brown University, Clarkson College of Technology, Nebraska Wesleyan University, the University of New Brunswick (Canada), Oklahoma City University, and an honorary doctor of engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In World War II he served as a submarine officer in the Pacific and in the Japanese occupation. He qualified in submarines and as a Navy deep-sea diver and was awarded the Commendation Medal and Submarine Combat Insignia with stars.

In 1985 the White House chose Thomas Paine as chair of a National Commission on Space to prepare a report on the future of space exploration. Since leaving NASA fifteen years earlier, Paine had been a tireless spokesman for an expansive view of what should be done in space. The Paine Commission took most of a year to prepare its report, largely because it solicited public input in hearings throughout the United States. The Commission report, Pioneering the Space Frontier, was published in a lavishly illustrated, glossy format in May 1986. It espoused "a pioneering mission for 21st-century America"--"to lead the exploration and development of the space frontier, advancing science, technology, and enterprise, and building institutions and systems that make accessible vast new resources and support human settlements beyond Earth orbit, from the highlands of the Moon to the plains of Mars." The report also contained a "Declaration for Space" that included a rationale for exploring and settling the solar system and outlined a long-range space program for the United States.

Paine was married to Barbara Helen Taunton Pearse of Perth, Western Australia. They had four children Marguerite Ada, George Thomas, Judith Janet, and Frank Taunton. He died of cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California, on May 4, 1992.

Birth Place: Berkeley, California.

Born: 1921.11.09.
Died: 1992.05.04.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Launius, Roger D, NASA Chief Historian, NASA History Office Home Page, Web Address when accessed: here.

Paine Chronology

1968 August 15 - . LV Family: Saturn V. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.
  • Webb briefed on Apollo 8 lunar mission concept. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Phillips, Samuel; Low, George; Webb; Paine. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 7; Apollo 8. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. Phillips and Paine discussed the plan with Webb in Vienna. Webb wanted to think about it, and requested further information by diplomatic carrier. That same day Phillips called Low and informed him that Mueller had agreed to the plan with the provisions that no full announcement would be made until after the Apollo 7 flight; that it could be announced that 503 would be manned and possible missions were being studied; and that an internal document could be prepared for a planned lunar orbit for December.

1968 November 11 - . LV Family: Saturn V. Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.
  • Paine gives Apollo 8 go-ahead for lunar orbit mission. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine; Low, George. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 8. Spacecraft: Apollo LTA; Apollo CSM. Summary: Low's initiative had paid off; the final decision to go to the moon in 1968 was made with the blessings of all of NASA's decision-makers, the Apollo Executive Committee, STAC, and PSAC..

1968 November 12 - .
1968 November 22 - .
  • Development of the Apollo SPS engine reviewed - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 8. Summary: NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George E. Mueller reviewed for NASA Acting Administrator Thomas O. Paine the development of the Apollo service propulsion system (SPS) engine. . Additional Details: here....

1969 March 5 - .
  • Nomination of Acting Administrator Thomas O Paine to be the NASA Administrator - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Nixon; Paine. Program: Apollo. Summary: President Nixon, at a White House ceremony, announced the nomination of Acting Administrator Thomas O. Paine to be the NASA Administrator..

1969 July 18 - . LV Family: Saturn I; Saturn V.
  • NASA Administrator Paine approved the shift from a "wet" to a "dry" Orbital Workshop for AAP. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine. Program: Skylab. Spacecraft: Orbital Workshop; Skylab; Apollo ATM. NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine approved the shift from a 'wet' to a 'dry' Orbital Workshop concept for AAP following a review presentation by program officials on the potential benefits of such a change. On 22 July, AAP Director William C. Schneider ordered program managers at the three Centers to implement the change, abandoning the idea of using a spent Saturn IB second stage for a Workshop and adopting the concept of a fully equipped 'dry' configuration-with the ATM integrated into the total payload-launched aboard a Saturn V. Additional Details: here....

1969 December 3 - .
  • George M Low NASA Deputy Administrator - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine; Low, George. Program: Apollo. Summary: George M. Low was sworn in as NASA Deputy Administrator by Thomas O. Paine, NASA Administrator..

1970 July 17 - .
  • Anniversary of Apollo 11 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 11. Summary: During the anniversary of Apollo 11, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine said: "The success of Apollo 11 marked the beginning of a new and important phase of mankind - not just the triumphant end of a mission. . Additional Details: here....

1970 September 2 - .
  • NASA canceling Apollo missions 15 and 19 because of congressional cuts - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 14. Spacecraft: Apollo Lunar Landing. NASA was canceling Apollo missions 15 and 19 because of congressional cuts in FY 1971 NASA appropriations, Administrator Thomas O. Paine announced in a Washington news conference. Remaining missions would be designated Apollo 14 through 17. The Apollo budget would be reduced by $42.1 million, to $914.4 million - within total NASA $3.27 billion.

1970 September 16 - .
  • George M Low named Acting Administrator of NASA. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine; Low, George. George M Low became Acting Administrator of NASA until a successor could be chosen to replace Thomas O. Paine who had resigned to return to General Electric Company. Low served in that capacity until the appointment of James C. Fletcher as NASA Administrator in March 1971.

1971 April 27 - . LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Shuttle.
  • James C Fletcher sworn in as NASA Administrator - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Low, George; Fletcher; Nixon; Paine. Program: Apollo. James C. Fletcher was sworn in as NASA Administrator at a White House ceremony. Fletcher decided to push for Congressional approval of the stalled space shuttle program, but found that would only be forthcoming if the US Air Force agreed to participate. In order for that to happen, NASA would have to incorporate the USAF requirements for the shuttle that it had so far ignored (greater payload, higher cross-range). In another attempt to share the cost of the shuttle with other nations, previous NASA Administrator Thomas Paine had already tried to obtain international partners. But the only remnants of that effort were the Canadian robotic arm for the shuttle, and the European Space Agency Spacelab module. Neither represented a significant amount of the total program cost.

    President Nixon had nominated Fletcher for the position on March 1, and the Senate had confirmed the nomination on March 11. George M. Low, NASA Deputy Administrator, had been Acting Administrator since the resignation of Paine on September 15, 1970.

1973 November 2 - .
  • Space Window with a two-centimeter Apollo 11 lunar sample commissioned for the National Cathedral - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Paine. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 11. With the support of the trustees of the Washington Cathedral, Francis B. Sayre and Thomas O. Paine commissioned a large stained glass Space Window to be installed in the south wall of the nave, the main auditorium of the Cathedral. The window would be 5.4 meters high by 2.7 meters wide. The center of the window would contain an Apollo 11 lunar sample 2 centimeters in diameter.

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