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Kyle Herring May 27, 1994

RELEASE: 94-038


Space Shuttle astronaut Dr. William E. Thornton will retire from NASA on May 31. Thornton, a member of the astronaut class of 1967, flew twice aboard the Shuttle -- on

STS-8 in August/September 1983 and aboard STS 51-B in April/May 1985.

On STS-8 aboard Challenger, Thornton made near continuous measurements and investigations of adaptation of the human body to weightlessness which included a number of first-time measurements on the human nervous system in space using

equipment he designed.

During his second mission, also on Challenger, Thornton was responsible for the first animal payload aboard a Shuttle mission. He also continued space medicine studies in the pressurized Spacelab module in the orbiter's payload bay.

Thornton received his doctorate in medicine from the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 1963 after obtaining a bachelor of science degree in physics from UNC in 1952. Prior to the Shuttle program, Thornton was the principal investigator for a Skylab medical experiment and documented a number of basic responses of the human body to weightlessness, including alterations in body posture and shape, and rapid loss of muscle strength and mass along with preventive methods. He devised the first mass measuring devices used in space on Skylab, which are still in use. Thornton has recently designed and tested smaller, improved units to allow routine mass measurement in space.

"Bill has contributed greatly to operational studies in space throughout his career," said David C. Leestma, director of Flight Crew Operations. "His expertise will be greatly


Thornton's immediate plans include writing about his work over the last 30 years in the space program. "Due to my work, I haven't really had the opportunity, or the time to do any writing about my technical work other than a few reports, and none at all about other matters."


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