Edwards, Joe F. Jr.
Joe Edwards is a former United States Naval officer and NASA astronaut. He was born Joe Frank Edwards, Jr. on February 3, 1958 in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Lineville, Alabama. He graduated from Lineville High School in 1976 and went on to attend the United States Naval Academy, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1980. Two years later, Edwards was chosen to be a Naval Aviator. He went through F-14 Tomcat training and was then assigned to Fighter Squadron 143 and flew fighter escort missions over Lebanon in 1983. He then attended the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, where he graduated in 1984, and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, where he graduated in 1986. Over the next eight years, he worked as project flight test officer and pilot for F-14A(PLUS) and F-14D Full Scale Development, served as Operations and Maintenance Officer in Fighter Squadron 142, and worked as Operations Officer in the Operations Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C. During this time he also attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he received a Master of Science degree in Aviation Systems in 1994.
On October 13, 1991, Edwards was flying in the Persian Gulf as maintenance officer of the VF-142 when the protective covering separated from his airplane, impacted, and destroyed his canopy. His sustained severe injuries, including a blinded eye, collapsed lung, and a broken arm, but he still managed to recover and hunkered down in the rear cockpit aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Later he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage and airmanship under the difficult circumstances.
In March 1995, after NASA selected him to be an astronaut candidate, Edwards reported to the Johnson Space Center, where he worked on technical problems for the Space Shuttle and Space Station in the Safety Department of the Astronaut Office, as well as served in many leadership positions in Mission Control and NASA administration. He is a veteran of one space flight, mission STS-89. The crew aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on January 22, 1998 and traveled through space to the space station Mir. They carried over 9,000 pounds of scientific equipment and water, brought astronaut Andy Thomas to the station and took home David Wolf. After 138 orbits of the Earth, the mission ended with a safe landing to Earth on January 31, 1998.
On April 30, 2000 Edwards retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy. He currently works with several companies around the country in the areas of technology, aviation, and business development. He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Association of Naval Aviation, and U.S. Naval Institute, and throughout his career he has received many awards, including the Air Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Daedalian Superior Airmanship Award. He is married to the former Janet Leigh Ragan of Leonardtown, Maryland.