Overcoming obstacles and reaching for the stars!

Dr. Don Thomas
NASA Astronaut
STS-65, 70, 83, 94
CWRU ‘77

Dr. Don Thomas is a former NASA astronaut and a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions. During these flights he spent 44 days in space and orbited the Earth 692 times, traveling 17 million miles in the process. In his presentation he will discuss his journey to become an astronaut after first dreaming of going into space when he was only six years old. Through hard work, persistence, and determination he finally achieved his life-long dream. From launching and landing aboard the Space Shuttle, he will share his experiences of living and working in space along with some of his favorite views of Planet Earth taken from above.

Dr. Thomas was born in Cleveland, Ohio and received his B.S. in physics from Case Western Reserve University in 1977. He then attended Cornell University where he received his master and doctorate degrees in materials engineering. From 1982-1987 he was a senior member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was awarded two patents for inventions related to the packaging of semiconductor devices He then joined the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas as a materials engineer for the space shuttle program. In 1990 Dr. Thomas was selected in NASA’s 13th group of astronauts and flew as a mission specialist on four space shuttle missions: STS-65, STS-70, STS-83, and STS-94. During these four missions he performed hundreds of microgravity sciences experiments and helped deploy a large communications satellite from the space shuttle.

From 1999-2000 Dr. Thomas was the NASA director of operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where he coordinated the training of NASA astronauts for missions aboard the International Space Station. From 2003-2006 Dr. Thomas was the International Space Station Program Scientist and was responsible for the selection and scheduling of experiments to be performed aboard the ISS.

From 2007-2015 Dr. Thomas headed up the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science at Towson University, an outreach initiative that targeted elementary, middle, and high school students to encourage them to pursue careers in math, science, and engineering. Today he is a professional speaker and continues his outreach efforts inspiring students to reach for the stars. He is the 2018 recipient of the Frank G. Brewer Trophy from the National Aeronautics Association in recognition of his outstanding work in STEM education across the United States and around the world.