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Celebrity Grads: Astronaut Pierre Thuot [Close-Up / City of Fairfax Schools]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor / City School Close-Up
Celebrity Grads / Regular Feature, 2003

WHEN PIERRE THUOT GRADATED FROM FAIRFAX High School in 1973, he had no idea he’d be selected to become an astronaut by NASA in June of 1985, fly into space three times, work as a U.S. Naval Test Pilot and flight instructor, and eventually become an entrepreneur. But back in high school, Thuot did feel the sky was the limit when it came to his potential.

“I’ve always been a team player, and always been pretty goal oriented,” says Thuot, now 48. “So when different opportunities came my way, I always made sure I did my best. Things turned out pretty well, I think.”

Thuot admits he probably could have done better in high school—graduating in the top 100 of his high school class of about 450 students. His grades were good enough to get him into the U.S. Naval Academy, though, and there he buckled down. In 1977, he graduated number 30 in his class of more than 900 students.

Following graduation, he began his Navy career flying F-14A Tomcats. In 1979, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 14, and made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas, then attended Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun). Later, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and flew F-14A Tomcats, A-6E Intruders and F-4J Phantom before becoming a test pilot school flight instructor in 1984.

He applied to NASA in 1983, but was turned down. Undeterred, he applied again in 1985. This time he was selected. In February 1990, he made his first space flight as a mission specialist aboard the Atlantis. He flew on the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Endeavor in May 1992, performing three space walks and set a record for the longest space walk in history: 8 hours and 29 minutes. In March 1994, he flew aboard the Columbia.

All totaled, Thuot orbited the Earth 437 times, traveling 11.7 million miles on his three missions.

By 1995, Thuot decided it was time to turn in his flight suit and left NASA to teach at the Naval Academy. The following year he became a program director for the Department of Defense before retiring from the Navy in 1998. He went on to use his experience and expertise in the private sector, working as an executive for Orbital Sciences Corporation and Arthur Anderson.

In January of 2002, Thuot went into business for himself. With his roommate from the Naval Academy, he founded HawkEye Systems and focused on intelligence, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts.

“Sometimes I miss the excitement of space,” Thuot admits. “But I have two children now and traveling in space is a risky business. In life, you have to make choices.”

His son, it seems, has his eyes set on the stars. “We went to Disney when they opened Mission Space and my boy liked it so much he rode it 20 times,” says the proud
papa. “I think we may have another astronaut in the family.”

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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