Space shuttle astronaut tells Augusta State University audience about her time in space

Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:50 PM
Last updated 10:19 PM
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Kathryn Thornton, a former shuttle astronaut, detailed her trips into space during a lecture Thursday at ASU.  CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
Kathryn Thornton, a former shuttle astronaut, detailed her trips into space during a lecture Thursday at ASU.

Imagine sitting on a hard metal chair in the back of a pickup as it bumps over railroad tracks, all the while holding a bowling ball in your lap. That’s how four-time astronaut Kathryn Thornton described rocketing into space on the space shuttle.

“It’s an absolutely remarkable, remarkable machine – one of the most amazing things humans ever built,” Thornton said Thursday night during a lecture at Augusta State University’s Maxwell Theatre.

With the discontinuance of the manned space program, Thornton said, shuttles will likely sit in museums. She questioned the rationale of missions returning to the moon and suggested new
territory, such as an asteroid.

In her lecture Space
Flight: A Human Perspec­tive, Thornton told the story of flying more than 975 hours in space on the shuttles Discovery (1989), Endeavour (1992 and 1993) and Columbia (1995). She also was a member of the first crew to visit the Hubble Space Telescope on a mission to correct its mirrored lens.

Thornton and her fellow crew members spent up to two weeks in an area the size of two minivans during her expeditions. The crew conducted studies of space matter and the human body, she said.

“When we’re not doing anything, and that’s usually the time we’re supposed to be asleep, looking out the window and watching the world fly by is a favorite pastime,” Thornton said.


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