Thomas Otten Paine was a long-running Administrator of NASA, serving twice under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He was in the position when Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov landed on the Moon in 1969, and was pressured by the Nixon administration to secure an American victory in the Space Race. To this end, Paine proposed the idea of an American military base on the moon that would later become Jamestown.
After Nixon was defeated by Ted Kennedy in the 1972 elections, Paine was replaced by Harold Weisner as NASA Administrator. He would later return to the position under President Reagan, where he oversaw the expansion of Jamestown as well as the increased militarization of the space program, due to rising Cold War tensions. Paine sought to mend relations with the USSR through the Apollo-Soyuz peace mission, but he died on Korean Airlines Flight 007 before the mission could occur. He was replaced as NASA Adminstrator by his friend, Ellen Wilson.
Von Braun talks to Thomas who is worried about blueprints. However, von Braun does not believe they are a threat, but the Thomas wants von Braun to make blueprints for a military outpost on the moon and wants him to unveil the plan in his testimony for the committee beginning with Apollo 12 due to instructions from the president. However, von Braun refuses, saying that NASA is a scientific program, not military. Asking Deke if he would be willing to accept more men, he agrees, but mentions Apollo 12's flight is soon. Thomas mentions they may need to move it up a bit, but von Braun refused since they were being encroached and could not allow space to become another battlefield, but Thomas argued it already was.
Later, Thomas presents Ed to congressman Charles Sandman, who is looking into NASA and is a big fan of his due to his work on Apollo 10. Sandman asks him to talk to the committee and see what he has to say about everything. However, when Thomas nods at him, Ed apologizes and mentions he has done enough damage. Thomas tells Ed that the president is not happy either about everything that is going on, and Sandman tells him to go to DC and tell his colleagues exactly what he had told the reporter at the tavern about von Braun being too cautious and costing them the moon. However, Ed mentions that although he and von Braun didn't always see eye to eye, he still respected him since he built the Saturn V. They tell him that he has the president's support, and have him think about it.
When Deke Slayton and Gene Kranz were talking to a general about the base on the moon, Thomas walks into the room, and speaks to Deke and Gene alone, telling them that the president now wanted to land a woman on the moon. Gene finds this to be an issue, however, since NASA did not have female astronauts. Deke also adds that he can not just choose a random woman, they would have to be trained to be astronauts, and not all of them would pass his tests. However, Thomas does not want Deke to train them properly, which he opposes.
Deke was presented with 13 women who used to be called "Mercury 13", of which only two were left who were still flying: Molly Cobb, who set aviation records for long-distance flight, won several racing awards qualified in single and multi-engine aircrafts and was first in her class in Mercury 13, but she was not what the president was looking for since she was not up to beauty standards. Patty Doyle was also a candidate, having passed the Mercury test with flying colors, and finished second behind Cobb. Deke agreed with both choices, and was presented with more candidates, of which Danielle Poole, who already worked at NASA was also part of.
Thomas walked in, mentioning the president had also loved the idea of Gordo flying with Tracy. Deke does not approve, but he was told Tracy was the only one who really looked like she could represent the USA.
At a meeting in NASA, the possibility of ice being on the moon was discussed. However, this could not be confirmed. Ed mentioned they could find more about it on Apollo 15. Gene mentioned water on the moon could change everything, with Ray emphasizing that they could drink it, grow plants, and make rocket fuel. At the end of the meeting, Thomas asked Deke how "Nixon's women" were doing, specifically Tracy. Deke told him that the women were doing desert survival training, which surprised Thomas. He told Deke there was no way they could haul a 40-pound pack 20 miles in the desert sun, but Deke argued that if they could not handle the desert, they could not handle the moon.
Ed is visited by Thomas, who tells him that the president had some concerns about Pathfinder, and Ed tells him that he does not need his approval since he only works with crew members. Thomas tells him that the White House wanted it to be a unanimous decision, but Ed realizes that all they wanted was for the press not to say that they had decided to do a little saber-rattling over the objections people at JSC had. Thomas asks him to work with him since they needed to send a message to the Soviets since they were already testing their own shuttle. He also tells him that Margo was protecting her turf when Ed mentioned they had tested second generation shuttles and was worried that they would put weapons on the shuttle and it would become a military asset. Ed tells him that Margo is not wrong, since he had needed to go to the Pentagon more than he would have liked to and knew that they would love to add Pathfinder to their fleet. Thomas asks if he turned Margo over to his side if Ed would join and Ed tells him that if he is able to do so, he would not stand in his way.
Margo, Ed and Thomas got to mission control, where Margo told them that life on Earth was safe, but everything outside of the Earth's atmosphere was in danger, so they told different orbiting satellites to get closer to Earth, also ordering the Jamestown astronauts to get back to the base as soon as possible.
Earth was hit by the solar flare, and they lost all forms of communication. Margo asked Ed what the last headcount was, and he mentioned that ten minutes ago 14 were in the shelter and three were within visual sight of the base. He told her that Molly was a survivor and that they would be okay. Thomas told them that the White House would be explaining the storm and revealed that Raegan was on Air Force One since they were worried that the Soviets would make a move during the satellite blackout.
Thomas asked Margo how much radiation a human could take, and she mentioned that it varied and people could even develop cancer over time. She also said that each astronaut had a dosimeter badge which measured their radiation while on the moon.
Margo talks to Ellen through a video communicating device and asks her how the power situation was holding up. Ellen says that they were recuperating and told Ed that life support systems should be doing fine, but the Mars program would have to be put on hold, also mentioning that the fuel rods were damaged. Margo takes note that they would need to send more plutonium and says that she would alert Guam to implement nuclear transportation guidelines, only to be told by Bradford that they would need to ask the Pentagon first. Thomas walks in with news that the president wanted to ease tensions with the Soviets, mentioning that putting missles on Pathfinder was on hold for now and that they needed an American astronaut and a Soviet cosmonaut to come together for a handshake in space. Margo laughed, but Thomas told Ed to prep the crew. Margo said that it would never be done, but Thomas told her to relax and to figure something out.
Ellen makes it to NASA, where she greets Margo, Thomas, and Bradford. Margo tells her their first meeting would be concerning budgets and they begin talking. Margo says they need more money for Jamestown and they would need to get it from the Mars program. Ellen says that the Mars program was very delayed and said that there had to be another way, but Thomas says that they need to pick their battles. Margo looks through index cards and finds Aleida Rosales listed, and asks for a minute.
On the moon, astronauts are moving towards Jamestown, but stop to take a look at gear they found on the way. It seems that they took their mining site, which they report to the base.
Ed tells Bradford and Margo that the only way that the Soviets knew about the lithium on the site was because they had cracked their code, despite NASA changing the encryption keys every month. Thomas tells them that Raegan had decided not to tell the United Nations, instead taking the mining site back by replacing the gear the Soviets had placed and holding the area. This was due to the fact that if they did not do anything, nothing would stop the Russians from taking other sites from them. Margo agrees, but Bradford is not very sure until Thomas tells him that the Russians cannot stay there forever, while Ellen tells them that they could have three teams monitoring the site at all times. Ed mentions that the security detail would need weapons, but Thomas says that nobody had mentioned weapons. Bradford and Ed can not see any other solution to the problem, but Ellen reminds them that even if they could modify guns in order to be used on the moon, no astronaut was qualified to use them. However, Ed and Bradford agree that if they sent marines to the moon, it would be possible. Margo says that there has to be another way, but they simply can not see another choice.
At NASA astronauts tell Margo that they had not noticed any abnormalities at the time. Bradford tells Margo to ask about the overhead lights, so the astronauts check and find that Mikhail had managed to plant a bug at Jamestown when he was with Ed. Ed looks disappointed, while Thomas mentions that the president would not like that.
Ellen visits Thomas and tells him that the moon had sucked up a lot of funding, but Mars could give them an upper hand. He tells her that she has a problem - she did not fool anyone and he told her that she needed to be a better poker player, revealing that he had written a speech in which a senator attacked their lunar costs. She asked why, and he said that the senator needed to demonstrate independence, which had in turn granted NASA the ability to self-fund and would give them enough money to explore Mars as long as the democrats did not win. She tells him that it must have been difficult for him to have lost his job once Kennedy had gotten elected. He says it was part of the job, which he had lobbied his way into during the war after being impressed by the stars. Ellen mentions she was surprised that he actually loved space and was not just some politician, but he says that it was fine if people saw him that way since they were the ones who made everything happen. He tells her that she would help him greatly since she was very genuine, but tells her not to lose track of who she really was.
Ellen, Bradford, Margo, and Thomas congratulated him on his nine years of service as head of the astronaut office. When Ed asked if he had to make a wish, Margo told him that it had already been granted since he would be commanding Pathfinder. Ed blows out the candle and the meeting begins. Thomas tells them that the Soviets had agreed to mount a mission with them on the moon, which nobody likes. Bradford says that the only reason they accepted was so that they could get a closer look on American technology, but Ellen says that they have old technology which they could use. Everybody likes the idea of that, and Thomas asks Ed to choose a crew. He says the commander would be Danielle, but Thomas says that they might want to consider different possibilities since they only wanted the best. Ed asks what that was supposed to mean, since what had happened to Danielle's arm was not her fault; Ellen agrees with Ed and Margo does as well. Everybody likes the idea and Bradford mentions that this would be a powerful message, and after Thomas says that he would let everybody know, he asks him to tell him if anybody gave him any trouble so he could call the Secretary of Defense so he would support it.
Ed looks back at his office one last time and just as he was about to leave, Thomas asks him what had happened, since he thought they were friends. Ed says that it had not been premeditated, and Thomas mentions that lately nothing had been with him since Gordo's mission and assigning himself to Pathfinder had come out of nowhere. Ed defended Gordo, but Thomas counters that everybody knew he had a drinking problem. Thomas says that he hopes there was reason to his actions as opposed to nepotism.
Gordo and Ed sit at NASA while listening to their recordings while on their jets. They are joined by Thomas, Margo, and Molly who pauses the recordings and asks them to give her a good reason why she should not pull their tickets. Gordo says that he takes full responsibility, but Molly asks him when he had ever done such a thing. Ed tells her that he cannot take him off Pathfinder, but she reminded him that she could. She tells them that they have one last chance and tells them to leave. Thomas asks Molly if that was it, since he wanted a harsher punishment, but Molly told him that it was not that big a deal since things had gotten out of hand, which happened all the time. Thomas reminded her that the jets were expensive; Margo also told Molly that she should set a certain tone, but Molly reminded them that she would handle them as she saw fit.
A ceremony is held, and Soviet cosmonauts are received by NASA. Margo tells Thomas that she believes if she can pretend to be happy, the Russians could pretend as well. They greet the cosmonauts, and Ellen greets one in Russian, but tells him she is not fluent, which makes Molly laugh. Danielle greets the cosmonauts happily, and they move forward.
Later, Margo explains how the mission will proceed, and does not receive any questions in the quiet room. However, when Margo referred to the cosmonauts as "astronaut three and four," the Soviet representative told her they preferred being called "cosmonaut one and two," so as to not sound like afterthoughts. Margo agrees, and Sergei Orestovich Nikulov tells her that they would also suggest naming the mission "Soyuz-Apollo" instead. Margo moves forward, saying that the astronauts and cosmonauts needed to get to know each other, and the Russian immediately asked for their RF encryption protocol. Margo glanced over at Bradford and Thomas for an answer, and told the Soviet that they would exchange the encryption protocols, but the Soviet demanded that they show them first. As Margo continued explaining, the Soviet interrupted her, establishing the Soviet Union as the active mechanism, which did not please the NASA team at all.
Margo visits Thomas and asks him to make the Russians go away, but he tells her that he wants this to happen, telling her that the handshake in space was his shining city on a hill so that people spoke about this gesture for years to come. He added that she needed to find a win-win scenario, which she does not like.
The next day, Margo, and Aleida presented the docking system to Thomas, Ellen, Bradford and the Apollo-Soyuz team. Sergei talked to the Soviets and they agreed that it would work for them. Margo told Sergei that they would need to coordinate their approach while in space, and Sergei gave her the frequencies, with Margo returning the favor. Thomas told Ellen that the cat was out of the bag now, and Ellen agreed.
In New York Ellen and Thomas have a drink before negotiating a space alliance with Korea. He told her that the Koreans were party animals, which she says exhausts her, but he tells her she will do great. She tells him that she had been meaning to tell him, but is interrupted by a phone call. When she takes the call, she thanks the caller and tells Thomas that her father had a heart attack. Thomas remembered he was in Connecticut, so he told her to use the limo and he would take a taxi to the airport.
On the plane, Thomas tells Margo, who sympathizes, knowing that Ellen wanted to go to Korea. Thomas wishes her father good luck so she could join him later. She asks him if he slept, but he mentions that he cannot sleep on planes. She tells him to read novels, but he makes a joke about it. He asks how Poole and Morrison were doing in Russia and she tells him that training was going smoothly. He liked hearing that and told her he wanted to check on negotiations for the EASA before he landed. As he asked, a jet behind the plane he was on shot a missile, and Margo lost connection to him.
Behind the scenes
Thomas Paine is one of several characters that For All Mankind borrows from real-life; he served as NASA Administrator under Nixon from 1969 until 1970, when he resigned. The real Paine was deeply involved in the planning for the future of NASA; like his fictional counterpart, he advocated for a lunar base and manned missions to Mars, though President Nixon would reject his proposals. Paine died peacefully in 1992.