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Tom Horn

Class of 2007. B.S., Aerospace Engineering

Thomas Horn

I received my first job with NASA straight out of college via the Hokies4Hire tool, thanks Virginia Tech! That job was as an international space station flight controller operating the space station from NASA Mission Control in Houston. Since then, I've bounced between NASA and commercial spaceflight companies chasing new challenges in the space industry. I recently came back to NASA when the Artemis missions got going. There was no way I was missing my generation's 'Apollo' moment.

Currently, I am the integration lead between the Gateway Lunar Space Station and the Orion Spacecraft. In this role, I’m working out the concept of operations, interface hardware, and mission requirements that will allow these two spacecraft to work together in orbit around the moon.

As humans return to the moon and look to explore beyond, what are you most excited to learn from the mission?

What excites me most about our latest push into space is that we are starting the process to break free from Earth. All human space missions to date have either been short duration affairs using solely the supplies they brought with them (e.g. Apollo), or have been long-term stays only permitted by massive logistical support from Earth (e.g. International Space Station). NASA is starting to plan for long-duration trips far enough away from Earth that the previous standard of solely relying on logistical support from Earth is unfeasible. This is forcing us to learn how to 'live off the land' in space! There are massive challenges ahead, but making this work will truly open up the solar system to human exploration.

What knowledge have you gained from being part of such an expansive, multidisciplinary endeavor?

Space travel is a unique arena where multinational teams are able to come and work together on projects that truly have species-wide benefits. It is inspiring to work with brilliant people around the world focused on the same mission as you. The International Space Station is the largest peace-time, multinational project in history. It exemplifies the best of human accomplishment when we work together, and it deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!

How did Virginia Tech prepare you for your current role?

I credit my senior design project for helping me get my job at NASA. With the mentorship of our professor, we submitted it to an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) design competition and won a national award. That award is what I believe helped my resume stand out from the competition and get me noticed. Group engineering projects where you actually design and build something tangible, versus doing problem sets, is much more applicable to the environment you'll be in outside of college. Find opportunities to participate in those projects and excel!

What do you think your younger self would think about your current work on Artemis?

My younger self would want to figure out a way to convince NASA to send me to space.

Want to share your story?

Contact: Jama Green, External Relations Manager