Thomas Jones is a former United States astronaut. He was born Thomas David Jones on January 22, 1955 in Baltimore, Maryland and participated in Eagle Scouts as a child. He graduated from Kenwood High School in 1973 and went on to attend the United States Air Force Academy, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in basic sciences in 1977. After completing as a Distinguished Graduate of the Academy, Jones served as an Air Force officer on active duty for 6 years. He then flew strategic bombers at Carswell Air Force Base in Texas and served as an aircraft commander of a B-52D Stratofortress. He logged over 2,000 hours of jet experience before resigning as a captain in 1983.After his resignation, Jones went to the University of Arizona in Tucson to study for his Ph.D. His research included remote sensing of asteroids, meteorite spectroscopy, and applications of space resources. He received a Doctorate in planetary science in 1988 and then went on to be a program management engineer at the CIA’s Office of Development and Engineering in Washington, D.C.
Jones was named a NASA astronaut candidate in January 1990. That year, he joined Science Applications International Corporation as a senior scientist and underwent extensive astronaut training. He became an astronaut in July 1991 and flew his first flight in 1994. STS-59, which launched on April 9 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, was a Space Radar Laboratory mission. It consisted of three large radars, Shuttle Imaging Radar C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar, and a carbon monoxide sensor, which studied the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The imaging radars functioned in three frequencies and four polarizations, which provided information about the Earth’s surface over many levels not previously understood. The mission ended after 183 orbits of the Earth with a landing at Edwards Air Force Base on April 20, 1994. His second flight to space was just six months later as payload commander on STS-68 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. It launched from the Kennedy Space Center on September 30, 1994 and was the second flight of the Space Radar Laboratory. The goal for the mission was to radar map the surface of the Earth in order to better understand the effects of ecology, hydrology, geology, and oceanography on Earth’s environment. The eleven day mission was very successful and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
In late 1996, Jones next flew aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-80, which successfully sent out and retrieved two science satellites, ORFEUS/SPAS and the Wake Shield Facility. During the mission, Jones used the robotic arm to handle the satellites. His most recent spaceflight was aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-98. The mission launched on February 7, 2001 to continue working on the International Space Station. The crew relocated a docking port, delivered supplies to the resident Expedition 1 crew, and successfully sent out the U.S. laboratory module Destiny after spending a week docked to the ISS. After 12 days, 21 hours, and 20 minutes in space, the mission ended on February 20. Later that year, Jones retired from NASA. Since then, he has worked as a planetary scientist and consultant in space operations as well as served on the NASA Advisory Council. He has also written non-fiction books, and is currently an advisor at Planetary Resources, where he is active in planning robotic and astronaut expeditions to near-Earth asteroids.
Image Caption: Portrait astronaut Thomas Jones. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia