NASA has bid farewell to two veteran astronauts who have retired after a combined 66 years of federal service.
David Leestma has retired after more than 44 years of government service. A veteran of three spaceflights, Leestma served as a space shuttle mission specialist on STS-41G in 1984, STS-28 in 1989 and STS-45 in 1992.
Before joining NASA, Leestma served in the U.S. Navy as a pilot and flew missions in the Mediterranean/North Atlantic areas while assigned to the USS John F. Kennedy. He was selected to join the astronaut corps in 1980. After flying in space, Leestma held multiple technical and leadership assignments, including director of Flight Crew Operations. In his last role, Leestma led the Technical Transfer and Commercialization Efforts office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“From the day we came together as astronaut classmates, Dave stood out as a remarkable leader, friend, and loyal teammate,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who flew with Leestma on shuttle Atlantis’ STS-45 mission. “He possessed seemingly infinite wisdom of the space shuttle and all its systems and never ceased to amaze me with his performance. We wish him the best.”
Leestma holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and a Master of Science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
A retired Navy captain, Leestma has logged more than 3,500 flight hours. He ends his NASA career having logged more than 23 days in space on three shuttle missions.
Andrew Thomas also has retired from NASA after more than 22 years of service to the agency.
Thomas, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering, was selected to join NASA’s astronaut corps in 1992. Before joining NASA, Thomas worked in private industry as a research scientist responsible for designing vehicle aerodynamics, flight controls and propulsion systems.
“Andy is an extraordinary researcher, engineer and astronaut who has done it all in his 22 years as a NASA astronaut,” said Janet Kavandi, director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson. “In his 177 days in space over four missions, Andy served as the payload commander for a dedicated research mission, lived aboard the Russian Mir space station, conducted a spacewalk during an International Space Station assembly mission and served a vital role as a crew member on our crucial Return to Flight mission, STS-114, following the tragic Columbia accident. Since his last flight, Andy has helped shape NASA’s future through his tireless work supporting the development of future exploration technology. We will miss him deeply.”
Thomas traveled to Mir in 1998 to assist in the transition to space station operations. He was the last American to live on Mir and performed numerous life and physical sciences experiments during the course of his stay. His research aboard Mir provided the framework for the multinational cooperation and collaborative research on today’s International Space Station.
Thomas held multiple technical and leadership assignments during his NASA career, including deputy chief of the Astronaut Office.