From 1983 to 1988 he worked toward a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His research interests included the remote sensing of asteroids, meteorite spectroscopy, and applications of space resources. From 1989 to 1990, he was a program management engineer in Washington, D.C., at the CIA's Office of Development and Engineering. In 1990 he joined Science Applications International Corporation in Washington, D.C. as a senior scientist. Dr. Jones performed advanced program planning for NASA's Solar System Exploration Division, investigating future robotic missions to Mars, asteroids, and the outer solar system.
After a year of training following his selection by NASA in January 1990, Dr. Jones became an astronaut in July 1991. In 1994 he flew as a mission specialist on successive flights of space shuttle Endeavour. First, in April 1994, he ran science operations on the "night shift" during STS-59, the first flight of the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1). Then, in October 1994, he was the payload commander on the SRL-2 mission, STS-68. Dr. Jones next flew in late 1996 on Columbia. Mission STS-80 successfully deployed and retrieved 2 science satellites, ORFEUS/SPAS and the Wake Shield Facility. While helping set a Shuttle endurance record of nearly 18 days in orbit, Dr. Jones used Columbia's robot arm to release the Wake Shield satellite and later grapple it from orbit. His two planned spacewalks were cancelled due to a jammed outer hatch on the airlock. Dr. Jones has logged over 40 days (963 hours) in space.
Dr. Jones is currently representing the Astronaut Office on the NASA team planning the construction and operation of the International Space Station. He is assigned to fly next on Space Station Assembly Mission 5A, STS-98, scheduled for the spring of 1999. Dr. Jones' crew will deliver the United States laboratory module to the Space Station, and he will help install the Lab with a series of three spacewalks. The STS-98 mission will mark the beginning of science research activity aboard the Station.
Carried SIR-C SAR radar. Payloads: Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) 1; Consortium for Materials Development in Space Com-plex Autonomous Payload (CONCAP) IV; three getaway special (GAS) payloads; Space Tissue Loss (STL) A, B; Visual Function Tester (VFT) 4; Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) II.
Carried SIR-C SAR. Landed at Edwards Air Force Base on October 11. Payloads: Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) 2, five Getaway Special payloads, Chromosome and Plant Cell Division in Space (CHROMEX) 5, Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) 01, Cosmic Radiation Effects and Activation Monitor (CREAM), Military Application of Ship Tracks (MAST), Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG).
Mission STS-80 carried the Orfeus astronomy satellite, the Wake Shield Facility, and spacewalk equipment. The Orfeus satellite was deployed on November 20. It carried an ultraviolet telescope and spectrographs. Wake Shield Facility was deployed on November 22 and retrieved on November 26 . On 1996 Nov 29, crewmembers Tamara Jernigan and Thomas Jones were to conduct the first of several planned EVAs. However the shuttle's exit hatch would not open and NASA cancelled this and the other planned spacewalks of the mission. On December 4 at the astronauts retrieved the Orfeus satellite using the RMS arm. Reentry attempts on Dec 5 and Dec 6 were called off due to bad weather. Columbia finally landed at 11:49 GMT December 7 on Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center, making STS-80 the longest shuttle mission to that date .
International Space Station assembly mission; delivered the Destiny and PMA-2 modules. The shuttle orbiter was placed in an initial 74 x 323 km x 51.6 deg orbit. At 2357 GMT the OMS engines fired for the OMS-2 burn which raised Atlantis' orbit to 204 x 322 km x 51.6 deg. Atlantis docked with the Station at 1651 GMT on February 9 at the PMA-3 port on Unity's nadir. At 1500 GMT on Feb 10 Marsha Ivins used the RMS arm to unberth the PMA-2 docking port from Unity. Tom Jones and Bob Curbeam then conducted three spacewalks on Februay 10 to 14 to attach the Destiny and PMA-2 modules to the station. Atlantis undocked from Alpha at 1406 GMT on February 16. Atlantis landed at Edwards AFB on February 20; plans to land on February 18 and 19 were called off due to bad weather at Kennedy Space Center. The deorbit burn was at 1927 GMT and lowered the orbit from 370 x 386 km to about 50 x 380 km. The nominal entry interface at 122 km came at 2002 GMT and touchdown on runway 22 was at 20:33 GMT. On March 1 Atlantis was flown on the back of NASA's SCA 911 carrier aircraft to Altus AFB, Oklahoma, en route to Kennedy.
Tom Jones and Bob Curbeam began the first STS-98 spacewalk from the ODS airlock on Atlantis, supervising the ISS/Destiny assembly operations. The airlock was depressurized at 1544 GMT. PMA-2 was berthed on Z1 at 1650 GMT; Destiny was unberthed from the payload bay at 1735 GMT and docked to Unity at 1900 GMT. At 1935 GMT Curbeam was connecting ammonia coolant lines when a leaking connector sprayed ammonia into space, contaminating his suit. He was ordered to stay in sunlight to bake off the ammonia. At around 2311 GMT the spacewalkers returned to the airlock, closing the hatch at 2318 GMT. A new depressurization for decontamination was begun at 2342 GMT, with the airlock fully depressurized at 2350 GMT. The hatch was then opened and closed quickly at 2351-2352 GMT, to flush the airlock of any ammonia residue. This last event was not counted as an EVA by NASA.
STS-98 EVA-2 began at 1555 GMT on February 12 with depressurization of the airlock. The astronauts went to battery power at 1559 GMT. The PMA-2 docking port was attached to Destiny at 1728 GMT. The Power Data Grapple Fixture (PDGF) was removed from its location on an adaptive payload carrier on the port side of the payload bay (probably bay 5P) and installed on Destiny. The PDGF will be used by the Station's robot arm, and is an improved grapple fixture with electrical power and data ports. The hatch was closed at 2240 GMT and the airlock was repressurized at 2249 GMT
On the third STS-98 EVA the airlock was depressurized at 1443 GMT, with hatch open at around 1445 and battery power at 1448. The spare SASA S-band antenna was unberthed from an adapter beam in the payload bay (around bay 4P?) and installed on Z1. The +X (starboard) TCS radiator on P6, launched on the previous mission, was deployed at 1649 GMT. The astronauts completed the spacewalk with repressurization of the airlock at 2013 GMT