Anderson was born and raised in Nebraska, which he considers his home state. He graduated from Ashland-Greenwood High School, Ashland, Nebraska, in 1977; received a bachelor of science degree cum laude in Physics from Hastings College, Nebraska in 1981 and a master of science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State University in 1983. He launched to the ISS on June 8, 2007 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis–STS-117–as the Expedition 15 Flight Engineer and the Science Officer and returned to Earth aboard Space Shuttle Discovery as a member of the STS-120 crew, landing at Kennedy Space Center on November 7, 2007.
Expedition 15 and 16 included a number of science and engineering experiments from Russia, Europe, Canada and the United States. These included medical and physical sciences research, as well as observations of the Earth. Orbiting the earth at more than 220 miles, the ISS offers an ideal vantage point for crew members to continue observational efforts that began in the early 1960's. During Expeditions 15 through 18, activities included collaboration with the International Polar Year activities. Phenomena studied included auroras and mesospheric clouds. Astronaut photography of the earth can be found at: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/ipy
Anderson joined the NASA Johnson Space Center in 1983 in the Mission Operations Directorate Mission Planning and Analysis Division where he performed rendezvous and proximity operations trajectory designs for early space shuttle and ISS missions. In 1988 he became the Flight Design Manager leading the trajectory design team for the Galileo planetary mission–STS-34–while serving as the backup for the Magellan planetary mission–STS-31. In 1993 he was named the Chief of the Flight Design Branch. From 1996 until his selection as an astronaut in 1998, Anderson held the post of Manager, Emergency Operations Center, NASA Johnson Space Center.
Photos credit NASA.