“We have people who are responsible for evaluating the weather,” he said in a telephone interview. “One piece was marginal. Approving it was my responsibility and I gave my OK.”
When there is a technical failure delaying the launch, the decision to postpone is easy. When it is a question of the weather, it is more difficult because not only does the weather have to be good for the launch, it has to be good 35 minutes after the launch in case the shuttle has an emergency and has to return. The weather forecasters told him that the time frame was going to be good, so he made the decision to launch.
“It’s tough,” he said. “But they were right — the weather was still good 35 minutes after launch. And the shuttle had the least amount of damage after launch of any shuttle.”
Moses, 43, is launch integration manager for the space shuttle program at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a position he has held since August 2008.
“As launch integration manager, I am in charge of the processing and preparation of the entire shuttle fleet from landing to launch — configuring and servicing the orbiter from its last mission in prep for its next mission, stacking the solid rocket boosters, mating the external tank and then mating the orbiter and rolling out to the launch pad,” he said. “I had what is called ‘launch decision authority,’ making the final go/no-go decision.”
Prior to that, he was a flight director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He was in charge of the mission once in orbit, which included a lot of pre-mission planning and training. He participated in five space shuttle missions as a shuttle orbit flight director and was the shuttle lead flight director for the mission in February 2008. This is the 12th launch he has participated in.
Moses had a great feeling of both pride and regret as he participated in the final space shuttle launch.
“Immense pride because we are finishing strong, that was our motto for the launch, and I’m proud to be part of the team,” he said. “But also a feeling of regret and sadness that we’ll never see the shuttle launches again. Driving to work yesterday I was processing that I’m not going to be doing this anymore. I know we have to save money, but this was my life and my career forever. There’s a sadness in stopping.”
He was happy that his parents, Jim Moses, Somerset, and Kate Moses, Somerset, his wife, Beth, and their children, Sarah and Lauren, were able to attend the final launch.
Atlantis is carrying a crew of four, the smallest crew in decades. That is because there isn’t another shuttle available for a rescue. If one were needed, the crew would have to return on a smaller Russian vehicle. The astronauts are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
The shuttle carried the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing a year’s worth of food, supplies and spare parts for the space station. The shuttle docked on Sunday. The Atlantis mission was extended an extra day and should land on July 21. It was the 135th shuttle launch. Atlantis will then go on display at a tourist center.
In a departure from previous shuttle missions, the spacewalking job fell to space station astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr., because of the smaller crew on the shuttle. Fossum and Garan made a spacewalk on Tuesday to retrieve a broken ammonia pump outside the space station. They also set up a robotic refueling experience.
“Everything is happening ahead of timelines. They are setting efficiency records,” Moses said. “This is the most cargo that has ever flown. The mission is going fantastically.”
Moses is the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal, Johnson Space Center’s Director’s Commendation and multiple NASA Group Achievement Awards. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Purdue University, a master’s degree in space sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University. But he credited his education at Rockwood Area High School with bringing him where he is today.
“Not necessarily the specifics, the math and science, but the concepts of being willing to learn more all the time, the spirit of striving for something that was instilled in me at Rockwood made me reach my goals,” he said.
His new job after the shuttle mission is over hasn’t been determined. While the contractors on the support side of the space program are losing their jobs, the civil servants aren’t. Moses should have some role in the next heavy lift vehicle program under discussion.
Still Moses had a hard time keeping his emotions at bay for the final launch.
“The final shuttle launch hits me two ways,” he said. “We’ve reached the end, but we’ve had incredible success in the past 30 years. We’ve built the space station into an international laboratory. We overcame the adversity of two accidents. We are now at the top of our game in safety and efficiency. I am unbelievably filled with both pride and sadness.”