Former NASA Exec Moves To Virgin Galactic
One of NASA´s top officials is heading to Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceflight company owned by Richard Branson´s Virgin Group, the company announced on Tuesday.
Michael P. Moses, NASA´s former space shuttle program manager and flight director is leaving NASA to oversee operations at Virgin Galactic as Vice President of Operations. The company named Moses to oversee planning and execution of all operations of the company´s commercial suborbital spaceflight program at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Moses oversaw space shuttle operations at NASA during the final three years of the program, which was retired earlier this year. NASA is currently working on a heavy-lift rocket and capsule to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon, and beyond, but that program won℠t lift off for nearly a decade.
Moses was thrilled about NASA´s plans, but he had good reasons for moving on. “It´s just that the operations of that system were still eight to 10 years away. I couldn’t just push paper around and write requirements for the next 10 years so I’m going to take another shot at it here in the commercial sector,” he told Reuters.
Moses served at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the Launch Integration Manager from 2008 until the landing of the final Shuttle mission in July 2011. He was responsible for supervising all shuttle processing activities from launch to landing, and for reviewing major milestones. He also served as chair of the Mission Management Team providing ultimate launch decision authority for the final 12 missions of the shuttle program, overseeing the safe and successful flights of more than 70 astronauts.
As Virgin Galactic´s VP of Operations, Moses will set up and oversee the company´s commercial suborbital spaceflight services. The company´s first ship — SpaceShipTwo — is currently in the flight test phase at Scaled Composites´ Mojave, CA base. A test flight is expected for next year.
“Bringing Mike in to lead the team represents a significant investment in our commitment to operational safety and success as we prepare to launch commercial operations,” Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides said in a statement. “His experience and track record in all facets of spaceflight operations are truly unique. His forward-thinking perspective to bring the hard-won lessons of human spaceflight into our operations will benefit us tremendously.”
Moses also served as a Flight Director at the NASA Johnson Space Center where he led teams of flight controllers in the planning, training and execution of all aspects of shuttle missions. Before becoming Flight Director in 2005, he had over 10 years experience as a flight controller in the Shuttle Propulsion and Electrical Systems Groups.
“I am extremely excited to be joining Virgin Galactic at this time, helping to forge the foundations that will enable routine commercial suborbital spaceflights. Virgin Galactic will expand the legacy of human spaceflight beyond traditional government programs into the world’s first privately funded commercial space line,” Moses told Reuters.
Moses has a bachelor´s degree in physics from Purdue University, a master´s degree in space science from Florida Institute of Technology and a master´s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue. He is a two-time recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal as well as other NASA commendations and awards.
Moses, 43, will be relocating from Houston to Mojave, then to Virgin Galactic’s commercial space base near Las Cruces, NM, where a spaceport is under construction.
About 450 people have made $200,000 reservations to fly on Virgin´s suborbital space vehicle, which will be a short five-minute leap above the atmosphere exposing passengers to weightlessness and a view of the planet that has only been seen by about 500 people so far.
“If this works and we get commercial, regular, routine spaceflight, even if it’s suborbital operations, that expands the number of people who are involved in the space program, the number of people who get to go up in orbit and see the Earth from above and that should hopefully seed the whole culture of the country and world to start changing our attitudes toward how important space is,” Moses told Reuters reporter Irene Klotz.
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