November 22, 1989
Nuclear physicist Kathryn Thornton became the first woman to fly on a military space mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Thornton, who was born in Montgomery and graduated from Auburn University, flew four missions and logged more than 975 hours in space, including 21 hours of extravehicular activity. While in space, she deployed satellites, conducted research, helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope and tested systems for the construction of the International Space Station. Thornton received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1996 was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010. She is one of six astronauts born in Alabama.
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Kathryn C. Thornton (Ph.D.), NASA Astronaut (missions STS-33, STS-49, STS-61, STS-73). (NASA, Wikipedia)
In this image, Astronaut Kathy Thornton releases the old panel from the Hubble Space Telescope into low-Earth orbit during the first Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission in 1993. Earth’s gravitation pulled the jettisoned panel toward Earth’s atmosphere, where it entered and ultimately burned up. (NASA, Wikipedia)
These seven NASA astronauts are currently training for the first flight of Endeavour, Orbiter Vehicle (OV) 105, seen in the background. Crewmembers, wearing navy blue flight suits, are (left to right) Mission Specialist (MS) Kathryn C. Thornton, MS Bruce E. Melnick, MS Pierre J. Thuot, Commander Daniel C. Brandenstein, Pilot Kevin P. Chilton, MS Thomas D. Akers, and MS Richard J. Hieb. (Photograph by NASA JSC contract photographer Mark Sowa, NASA, Wikipedia)
Astronauts included in the STS-61 crew portrait include (standing in rear left to right) Richard O. Covey, commander; and mission specialists Jeffrey A. Hoffman, and Thomas D. Akers. Seated left to right are Kenneth D. Bowersox, pilot; Kathryn C. Thornton, mission specialist; F. Story Musgrave, payload commander; and Claude Nicollier, mission specialist. Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor on December 2, 1993, the STS-61 mission was the first Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission, and the last mission of 1993. (NASA, Wikipedia)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.