Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Australia’s first astronaut

Brian Oldman, Director South Australian Museum with Dr Andrew Thomas. Photo: Richard Lyons.

South Australian Museum, Australia’s first astronaut becomes the South Australian Museum’s first Patron, 4 June 2015

Dr Andrew Thomas, the first Australian in space, has become the first Patron of the South Australian Museum.

Born and raised in Adelaide, Dr Thomas was selected among thousands of applicants to join NASA in 1992. Over a 22 year long career as an astronaut he went on four space flights, spent 177 days in orbit, visited the Mir space station and undertook a lengthy spacewalk.

“I recall as a boy aged nine or ten, going to the South Australian Museum to see an exhibition about space,” said Dr Thomas.

“I thought wow! The exhibition is what first sparked my curiosity about space.

“The South Australian Museum changed my life,” said Dr Thomas.

Director of the South Australian Museum Mr Brian Oldman said that he is delighted to have Dr Thomas, the great-great-grandson of the Museum’s first Director, Frederick Waterhouse, as the South Australian Museum’s first Patron.

“Dr Thomas is a remarkably accomplished and prominent individual, and it is an honour for the Museum to have him as our Patron,” said Mr Oldman.

“The South Australian Museum has been proudly displaying the spacesuit that Dr Thomas wore on the launch and re-entry for his Mir Space Station expedition in one of our permanent galleries.

“Now we have the pleasure of working with the man behind the spacesuit, who also appreciates what happens behind the scenes at the Museum.

“The South Australian Museum is much more than its displays and exhibitions, although these form a vital part of how we communicate with the public.

“We are the leading museum within Australia in terms of securing research funding.

“On an annual basis our researchers attract more Australian Research Council grant money than all other Australian Museums combined.

“But we need to maintain South Australia’s scientific momentum.

“That is why it is vital for us to have Dr Thomas on board as our Patron, as he will help to encourage younger generations to pursue scientific, technological and mathematically based careers.

“Dr Thomas demonstrates through his brilliance, determination and achievements that even the sky is not the limit,” said Mr O

    About the South Australian Museum

  • The Museum is a world leader in its exploration of the earliest form of complex life (Ediacara).
  • The Museum is the home of a world-renown environmental biology unit, which uses genetic research to understand the patterns of life on earth; this unit is visited by scientists from over 100 internationally based scientific institutions on an annual basis.
  • The Museum is responsible for the largest and most comprehensive collection of Australian Aboriginal ethnographic material in the world.
  • The Museum is a leader in remote and regional community engagement.
  • The South Australian Museum has been committed to making Australia’s natural and cultural heritage accessible, engaging and fun for over 150 years.
  • Annually, the Museum’s researchers receive more Australian Research Council grant money than those of all other Australian museums combined.
  • The Museum is one of the most visited museums in Australia with around 800,000 visitors per year.



Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Mr Brian Oldman, South Australian Museum PO Box 234 Adelaide, South Australia 5001 Australia, © CAMD 2023
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