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Thomas Zurbuchen, former head of science NASA, Swisspreneur Podcast

EP #372 - Thomas Zurbuchen: Startups & NASA: Braving the Unknown

Thomas Zurbuchen

January 25, 2024

4:26 - Getting kicked out of home 

16:00 - Immigrants and entrepreneurs

20:56 - Getting a job offer from NASA

39:35 - Startups and space missions 

43:39 - Leaving NASA

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About Thomas Zurbuchen:

⁠Thomas Zurbuchen⁠ is a professor at ⁠ETH Space⁠ and the former Head of Science at NASA. He was born in 1968 in the canton of Bern, son of a Free Church preacher who did not want him to attend university to study Astrophysics. Thomas went against his father’s wishes and was consequently kicked out of the house, and the ensuing isolation was the hardest ordeal he ever experienced in his life. In retrospect, Thomas believes this experience inoculated him from fearing future isolation and hardship. 

After completing his PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Bern in 1996, Thomas moved to the US to take a job at the University of Michigan, where he founded the Center for Entrepreneurship. Thomas spent 2 decades as a tenured professor there before joining NASA. During his 6 years as an Associate Administrator at NASA, Thomas led the science program and oversaw 37 launches and 55 new missions. In 2022 he left NASA, because he felt like he’d already contributed all his best ideas and wasn’t really growing on a constant basis anymore. 

2023 saw Thomas move back to Switzerland and take up a teaching job at ETH, where he leads the space programs and works to grow science and commercial activities in Switzerland and beyond.

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