Thomas Otten Paine (November 9, 1921 – May 4, 1992),was an American engineer, scientist, and advocate of space exploration, was the third Administrator of NASA, serving from March 21, 1969 to September 15, 1970.
During his administration at NASA, the first seven Apollo crewed missions were flown, including the first manned lunar landing by Apollo 11. Paine was also deeply involved in preparing plans for the post-Apollo era at NASA.
Early life and education
Born in Berkeley, California, Paine attended public schools in various cities and graduated from Brown University in 1942 with an A.B. degree in engineering. At Brown, Paine joined Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. In World War II, he served as a submarine officer in the Pacific and in the subsequent Japanese occupation. In late 1945, Paine became the executive officer of the prize crew which sailed the Japanese aircraft-carrying submarine I-400 from Japan to Pearl Harbor. He qualified as a Navy deep-sea diver and was awarded the Commendation Medal and Submarine Combat Insignia with stars. From 1946–1949, Paine attended Stanford University, receiving an M.S. degree in 1947 and Ph.D. degree in 1949 in physical metallurgy. During his career, Paine received honorary doctor of science degrees from Brown, Clarkson College of Technology, Nebraska Wesleyan University, the University of New Brunswick, Oklahoma City University, and an honorary doctor of engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
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.
Paine joined the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York, in 1949 as a research associate, where he started research programs on magnetic and composite materials. In 1951, Paine transferred to the Meter and Instrument Department of G.E. in Lynn, Massachusetts, as the manager of materials development, and later as a laboratory manager. Under Dr. Paine's management, this lab received the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Industrial Science in 1956 from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for its work in fine-particle magnet development. From 1958 through 1962, Dr. Paine was a research associate and manager of Engineering Applications at the Research and Development Center of the General Electric Company in Schenectady, N.Y., From 1963 to 1968, Paine was manager of TEMPO, the Center for Advanced Studies of General Electric located in Santa Barbara, California.
Dr. 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.
Paine was recruited to succeed Webb by President Lyndon Johnson. He was tasked with the responsibility of getting the Apollo program back on track in the wake of the Apollo 1 disaster, and fulfilling President Kennedy's goal "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."
During his administration at NASA, the first seven Apollo manned missions were flown, highlighted by the first manned lunar landing by Apollo 11. In all, 20 astronauts orbited Earth, 24 traveled to the Moon, and twelve walked upon its surface. Many automated scientific and applications spacecraft were also flown in U.S. and cooperative international programs.
Paine was also deeply involved in preparing plans for the post-Apollo era at NASA. Along with George Mueller and others, Paine developed an ambitious plan calling for the establishment of a lunar base and a massive space station in Earth orbit before the end of the 1970s, culminating in a manned mission to Mars as early as 1981. President Richard Nixon rejected these plans, however.
He was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages
Paine was instrumental in acquiring the sentiments of world leaders that became the Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages which now rests on the lunar surface. He personally corresponded with the heads of what became seventy-three participating nations, and coordinated the efforts to enshrine their messages on a tiny silicon disc manufactured by the Sprague Electric Company of North Adams, Massachusetts. Paine's name is also etched onto the disc.
Paine proposed the idea of the messages to the State Department's Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson. A high level committee determined that a plaque declaring that "We Came in Peace for all Mankind" and the planting of a U.S. flag on the Moon were to be part of the ceremonial activities for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface.
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, (worldwide ship propulsion, nuclear power and steam and gas turbine generators), and later became Senior Vice President for Science and Technology (oversight of GE's research and development).
Paine left GE in 1976 to become the President and Chief Operating Officer of Northrop Corporation, where he also served as a Director. Paine retired as President of Northrop in 1982.
National Commission on Space
On October 12, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12490 that commissioned a panel of experts to investigate and evaluate the future of the national space program. President Ronald Reagan appointed Dr. Paine to be the chairman of this investigation. Rather than naming the commission after himself, as is customary, he chose instead to name it The National Commission on Space. Members of the 15-member commission included Dr. Luis Alvarez (a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics), Neil Armstrong (NASA astronaut and the first man on the Moon), Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill (American physicist and space activist), Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan (Space Shuttle astronaut and first American woman to walk in space), Dr. Jeane Kirkpatrick (political scientist and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations) and Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager (rocket plane pilot and first man to break the sound barrier).
Since leaving NASA fifteen years earlier, Dr. Paine had been a vocal spokesman for an expansive future of Space exploration. The National Commission on Space took most of a year to prepare its report, conducting public hearings throughout the United States. The Commission report, Pioneering the Space Frontier, was published 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.
Thomas O. Paine Associates
In 1982, Paine established Thomas Paine Associates - High Technology Enterprises (TPA) in Westwood, CA, and relocated it in Santa Monica, CA, in 1986. TPA also housed Paine's 3400-volume Submarine Warfare Library, which was later donated to the Nimitz Library, U.S. Naval Academy.
Dr. Paine served as a director for many corporations, including the RCA, NBC, Eastern Air Lines, Nike, Arthur D. Little, Inc., Orbital Sciences, and Quotron Systems (a division of the Citicorp company). Paine also served as a Director of the Planetary Society, the National Space Institute, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the Pacific Forum CSIS Honolulu Hawaii. The Planetary Society honored his commitment to Mars by establishing The Thomas O. Paine Award for the Advancement of Human Exploration of Mars.
Paine also served as a Trustee of Occidental College and Brown University and was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Paine was married to Barbara Helen Taunton Pearse of Perth, Australia. They had four children: Marguerite Ada, George Thomas, Judith Janet, and Frank Taunton.
Paine died of cancer at his home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California in May 1992.
In 1972, Paine donated his papers to the Library of Congress where they are currently open and available in the Manuscript Division. Although there is one container of classified material, the other 183 are open and available to researchers.
In the 1966 BBC TV PANORAMA documentary California 2000, Paine is interviewed and offers predictions on how technology will impact society.
In the 1996 TV movie Apollo 11 Paine was played by Carmen Argenziano. In the 1998 TV miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, he was played by Sam Anderson. In the 2019 web television series For All Mankind he is played by Dan Donohue.