NASA Selects International Space Station Program Scientist

NASA Selects International Space Station Program Scientist

Dolores Beasley

NASA today named Dr. Donald A. Thomas as the new International Space Station Program Scientist for the agency. As International Space Station Program Scientist, Thomas will be based at Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston. He will work with principal investigators and the Station program office to ensure scientific and engineering requirements are clearly communicated among the participants. He will serve as the science spokesman for the Program to the scientific and international research communities and the general public.

“Don has a unique and very diverse background which makes him an excellent choice for this position,” said Mary Kicza, Associate Administrator for the Office of Biological and Physical Research at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “His experiences as a materials science researcher in industry prior to joining NASA and his scientific and management accomplishments since becoming an astronaut will serve the Space Station program extremely well, as we optimize the available research opportunities and move forward toward assembly and completion of the Station,” she said.

A veteran of four space flights, Thomas came to NASA from Lockheed Engineering and Sciences Company in Houston. His responsibilities involved reviewing materials used in Space Shuttle payloads. In 1988 he joined JSC as a Materials Engineer. His work involved projections for advanced composite materials for use on Space Station Freedom. He was also a Principal Investigator for the Microgravity Disturbances Experiment, a middeck crystal growth experiment that flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-32) in January 1990.

Thomas became an astronaut in July 1991. Three of his four flights were on Spacelab research missions. In July 1994, on Columbia (STS-65), the second International Microgravity Laboratory mission, the crew conducted more than 80 experiments focusing on materials and life sciences research in microgravity. As a mission specialist during the Microgravity Science Laboratory Spacelab mission, he focused on materials and combustion science research in microgravity.

He has served in the Safety, Operations Development and Payloads Branches of the Astronaut Office, and was Director of Operations for NASA at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Thomas will succeed Neal Pellis, the first International Space Station Program Scientist. “Neal’s leadership was impressive and admirable,” Kicza said. “We appreciated his ability to provide guidance regarding the various Station research priorities and wish him the best, as he returns to his important research at JSC.” In July, Pellis became Associate Director, Biological Sciences and Applications Office at JSC.

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