Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas 77058
This was followed in 1983 by an appointment as the head of the Advanced Flight Sciences Department to lead a research department of engineers and scientists engaged in experimental and computational studies in fluid dynamics, aerodynamics and aeroacoustics. He was also manager of the research laboratory, the wind tunnels, and the test facilities used in these studies. In 1987, Dr. Thomas was named manager of Lockheed's Flight Sciences Division and directed the technical efforts in vehicle aerodynamics, flight controls and propulsion systems that supported the company's fleet of production aircraft.
In 1989, he moved to Pasadena, California, to join the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and, shortly after, was appointed leader of the JPL program for microgravity materials processing in space. This NASA-sponsored research included scientific investigations, conducted in the laboratory and in low gravity on NASA's KC-135 aircraft, as well as technology studies to support the development of the space flight hardware for future Shuttle missions.
While awaiting space flight assignment, Dr. Thomas supported shuttle launch and landing operations as an Astronaut Support Person (ASP) at the Kennedy Space Center. He also provided technical support to the Space Shuttle Main Engine project, the Solid Rocket Motor project and the External Tank project at the Marshall Space Flight Center. In June 1995 Dr. Thomas was named as payload commander for STS-77 and flew his first flight in space on Endeavour in May 1996. He next trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia in preparation for a long-duration flight. In 1998, he served as Board Engineer 2 aboard the Russian Space Station Mir for 130 days.
On January 22, 1998, Dr. Thomas launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour as part of the STS-89 crew to dock with the Mir Space Station. He served aboard Mir as Flight Engineer 2 and returned to earth with the crew of STS-91 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on June 12, 1998, completing 141 days in space and 2,250 orbits of the earth.