Astronauts Andy Thomas, VK5MIR, and Dave Leestma, N5QWC, Retire from NASA
Astronauts Andy Thomas, VK5MIR/ex-KD5CHF, and Dave Leestma, N5WQC, have announced their retirements from NASA. Both operated on ham radio from space, and Thomas, as the last US astronaut to complete a duty tour onboard the Russian Mir space station, conducted several contacts with students on Earth as part of the SAREX program, the predecessor to ARISS.
A native of Australia, Thomas, 62, became an astronaut in 1993. He leaves the space agency after 22 years of service. His most recent work with NASA involved leading design teams for projects that include a return visit to the moon and a Mars mission. Thomas’s spaceflight experience includes a 1996 mission on the shuttle Endeavour, about 6 months onboard Mir, and a 1998 trip on the shuttle Discovery, to deliver the Expedition 2 International Space Station crew, and the 2005 Discovery “Return to Flight” mission following the Columbia disaster to continue construction of the ISS.
Thomas was active on the air during his stint aboard Mir and from NA1SS during his brief 2005 ISS stay. Thomas and his wife, Shannon Walker, KD5DXB, will live on the couple’s 40 acre ranch in central Texas. Walker, who’s still active with NASA, is hoping for at least one more spaceflight. Thomas’s US Amateur Radio license has expired.
Leestma, 65, is a veteran of three shuttle missions. He leaves NASA after more than 44 years of government service. Leestma was selected to join the astronaut corps in 1980. After flying in space, Leestma held multiple technical and leadership assignments at NASA, including director of Flight Crew Operations. He is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. In 1992 he completed the Worked All Continents (WAC) award from space by working Antarctica.