Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 21:21 EDT

Akers, Thomas

Thomas Akers is a former astronaut in the United States Space Shuttle program. He was born Thomas Dale Akers on May 20, 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Eminence High School in Missouri in 1969, and went on to continue his education at the University of Missouri”“Rolla. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1973, and then went on to earn his Master of Science degree in Applied Mathematics in 1975. Akers spent the next four years as the high school principal in his hometown of Eminence. In 1979, he left the school district and joined the Air Force. He completed Officer Training, and was given his first assignment at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida as an air-to-air missile data analyst. He also taught night classes in Math and Physics for Troy State University. In 1982 he was chosen to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. After completing a year of training as a flight test engineer, he was reassigned back to Eglin Air Force Base for the nest four years, working on a variety of weapons development programs as well as flying F-4, F-15, and T-38 aircraft.

In 1987, Akers was selected to join NASA. His first space flight was in 1990 on STS-41, the 11th flight of shuttle Discovery. He helped to deploy the European Space Agency satellite Ulysses, as well as tended to several secondary payloads and experiments. His next mission was in 1992 on STS-49, the primary flight of shuttle Endeavour. The goal was to capture and repair the non-functional Intelsat VI-F3 satellite. Their first two attempts failed, but Akers joined in the third attempt which was in fact successful. It was the first three-person EVA in human history, and is now the second longest EVA. A year later, Akers was one of four mission specialists to fly on the fifth flight of Endeavor on STS-61. The team repaired and improved the Hubble Space Telescope on its first servicing mission. In 1996, he flew aboard the 17th flight of shuttle Atlantis on STS-79, which would be his last mission. During the flight, they made contact with the Russian space station Mir and became the first flight to exchange US astronauts, returning Shannon Lucid to Earth and leaving John Blaha at the station.

Akers retired from NASA in 1997, and two years later also resigned from the Air Force at the rank of Colonel. He is currently an instructor of Mathematics at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, his Alma mater. Akers is married to his childhood sweetheart, Kaye Parker, and the couple has two children together.

Akers Thomas