Entering Our Orbit

Retired astronaut Tom Jones will land at IHMC in Ocala on March 9th to discuss developments in asteroid defense.

When he turned 5 in 1960, Tom Jones’ grandmother gifted him a children’s book titled Space Flight.

“I became a space nut,” the retired astronaut says with
a laugh. 

On March 9th, Jones will lecture on the topic When Rocks Attack: Defending the Earth from Asteroids at the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Ocala.

Before becoming a consultant, Jones flew on four Space Shuttle missions (1994-2001). On his last flight to the International Space Station, he led three spacewalks to install the centerpiece of the American Destiny laboratory. In total, Jones has spent 53 days in space.

Tom Jones

Jones grew up during the Space Race between the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union. When he was 10, he went with his Cub Scout pack to a Martin Marietta rocket factory in the Baltimore area where he grew up.

“They were making the Titan II rockets that Cape Canaveral would use to launch the Gemini astronauts into space,” he recalls. “So, here I am looking up at these two 100-foot tall missiles, 10 stories tall. I realized that the astronauts have a really cool job.”

Jones became a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and earned a Ph.D. in planetary science, which led to his astronaut career. 

Though he isn’t donning a space helmet anymore, the Maryland native gets excited while chatting about recent developments in asteroid defense. 

“In September, NASA did a test demonstration of diverting a harmless asteroid and, for the very first time, we changed the way the solar system operates with that test, called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test),” he shares. “So, we’ll be talking about the results of that test.”

He and his cohorts in the Association of Space Explorers Near Earth Objects Committee volunteered to testify in front of the United Nations in 2008 to urge NASA to implement planetary defense technologies and set procedures in place to prevent a high-impact event.

“The plan was approved during the Trump administration,” he says, “and now NASA’s following that, along with FEMA, and the Pentagon has had insight in participation in developing that document.”

Jones has authored several books, including the critically praised Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir. In 2018, Main Belt Asteroid 1082 TomJones was named in his honor when he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. OS

The lecture, which will take place at 15 SE Osceola Ave., will begin with a reception at 5:30pm. To register to attend, go to ihmc.us/life/evening_lectures/ocala-lecture-series

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