Board Member

Kathryn C. Thornton, Ph.D.

Former Chairwoman, Space Foundation

Dr. Kathryn Thornton is a Director Emeritus of Space Foundation’s Board of Directors having joined the organization in 2010 and serving in various capacities including as Chairwoman from 2020-2022.

Thornton is a former NASA astronaut and current Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Selected by NASA in May 1984, Kathryn is a veteran of four space flights: STS-33 in 1989, STS- 49 in 1992, STS-61 in 1993, and STS-73 in 1995. She has logged over 975 hours in space, including more than 21 hours of extravehicular activity (EVA), and she was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010.

Thornton was a mission specialist on the crew of STS-33 in 1989 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, which carried Department of Defense payloads and other secondary payloads. On her second flight in 1992, Thornton served on the crew of STS-49 aboard the maiden flight of the new Space Shuttle Endeavour, a mission in which the crew performed four EVAs to retrieve, repair, and deploy the International Telecommunications Satellite (INTELSAT). The following year Thornton was again a mission specialist EVA crew member aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on the STS-61 Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing and repair mission. On her final mission in 1995, Thornton served aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-73 as the payload commander of the second United States Microgravity Laboratory mission, which focused on the various scientific experiments housed in the Spacelab module.

Since leaving NASA, Thornton has served on multiple review committees and task groups, including several years on the National Research Council Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. Prior to becoming an astronaut, Thornton was employed as a physicist at the U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Thornton is the recipient of numerous awards including NASA Space Flight Medals, the Explorer Club Lowell Thomas Award, the University of Virginia Distinguished Alumna Award, the Freedom Foundation Freedom Spirit Award, and the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement. She earned her Bachelor of Science from Auburn University, and her Master of Science and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.