Stephen D. Thorne – Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy

From a contemporary news report:

“May 24, 1986: A stunt plane crashed while performing maneuvers Saturday near Santa Fe, Texas, killing an astronaut candidate and a NASA engineer, officials said. The dead were identified as the pilot James Ryan Simons, 39, and passenger Stephen D. Thorne, 33, both of Houston. A spokesman at the Johnston Space Center said Thorne was an astronaut candidate and Simons was a flight control engineer for the space agency.”

His private memorial is in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery.

Courtesy of NASA

NAME: Stephen D. Thorne (Lieutenant Commander, USN)
Astronaut Candidate (Pilot) NASA Astronaut


Born February 11, 1953, in Frankfurt-on-Main, West Germany. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Thorne, reside in Anderson, South Carolina.


Brown hair; green eyes; height: 6 feet 2 inches; weight: 185 pounds.


Graduated from T. L. Hanna High School, Anderson, South Carolina, in 1971; received a bachelor of science degree in Systems Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1975.


Married to the former Sue Lotz of Staunton, Virginia. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Philip L. Lotz, still reside there.



He enjoys baseball, running, reading, and general aviation.


Member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Life member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association.


Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, Thorne entered flight training and received his wings in December 1976. Following training in the F-4 Phantom, he joined Fighter Squadron 21 (VF-21) and was deployed to the Western Pacific aboard the USS RANGER. After training at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1981, Thorne spent the next two years at Strike Aircraft Test at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, flying mostly ordnance and weapons systems tests in the F-4 and A-7 Corsair II. He completed F-18 Hornet transition training in October 1984 and joined Strike Fighter Squadron 132 (VFA-132) aboard USS CORAL SEA until departing for NASA.

He has accumulated over 2,500 hours and 200 carrier landings in approximately 30 different types of aircraft.


Lieutenant Commander Thorne was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in June 1985 and, in August, commenced a one year training and evaluation program to qualify for subsequent assignment as a pilot on future Space Shuttle flight crews.

Stephen Thorne lost his life in an airplane crash on 5-24-86.

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