Don Thomas

Former NASA Astronaut

Dr. Thomas was born in Cleveland, Ohio and received his B.S. in physics from Case Western Reserve University. He then attended Cornell University where he received his master and doctorate degrees in materials engineering. From 1982-1987 he was a senior member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey , where he was awarded two patents for inventions related to the packaging of semiconductor devices He then joined the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas as a materials engineer for the space shuttle program. In 1990 Dr. Thomas was selected in NASA’s 13th group of astronauts and flew as a mission specialist on four space shuttle missions: STS-65, STS-70, STS-83, and STS-94. During these four missions he performed hundreds of microgravity sciences experiments and helped deploy a large communications satellite from the space shuttle. He has spent a total of 44 days in space and has completed 692 orbits of the Earth. From 1999-2000 Dr. Thomas was the NASA director of operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where he coordinated the training of NASA astronauts for missions aboard the International Space Station. From 2003-2006 Dr. Thomas was the International Space Station Program Scientist and was responsible for the selection and scheduling of experiments to be performed aboard the ISS. From 2007-2015 Dr. Thomas worked at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, as the founding director of the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science, an outreach program that targeted elementary, middle, and high school students to encourage them to pursue careers in math, science, and engineering. Today he is an author and public speaker and still actively engaged in inspiring our next generation of engineers, scientists, and explorers.

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Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.