On this day in Alabama history: Columbia launched with AU grad

On this day in Alabama history: Columbia launched with AU grad
STS-33 Mission Specialist Kathryn C. Thornton, wearing launch and entry suit, poses in front of Discovery, Orbiter Vehicle 103, at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex Pad 39B. (NASA)

October 20, 1995

The Space Shuttle Columbia launched its fourth and final mission with astronaut and nuclear physicist Kathryn Thornton aboard on Oct. 20, 1995. The Montgomery native and Auburn University graduate was an astronaut from 1985 until 1996, logging nearly 1,000 hours in space. She helped upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, tested systems for the International Space Station and launched and repaired satellites. One of 17 astronauts selected from more than 5,000 applicants, Thornton’s first space flight was aboard Discovery in 1989. She flew on the maiden voyage of Endeavour in 1992 and on its third mission in 1993. She was part of a 16-day mission aboard Columbia. Thornton was later on the task force that studied the January 2003 explosion of Columbia and she offered recommendations to prevent future disasters.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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