After a wait of sixteen years, there was great excitement not only for the Thornton family, but also among the residents of his hometown of Faison in North Carolina. With a population not much larger than 600, it seemed that half the town had come out for the launch, which was still "big news'' at the time. Thornton told his wife that she could at last have her own launch party. For commander Dick Truly's wife Cody, her party had occurred during STS-2, so this time the focus was on the rookie astronauts' families. Brandenstein, Gardner and Bluford joined the Thorntons at one big party at Patrick Air Base, near the Cape. The Thorntons' two sons stayed at one of the hotels near the beach and twelve of their friends stayed at a condo close by, under strict instructions from Jennifer Thornton to behave themselves.20
The launch of STS-8 was scheduled for 30 August 1983 but was delayed ten days due to TDRS difficulties. The inclusion of the Insat 1B Comsat dictated a spectacular night launch, which was threatened for a while by weather conditions that eventually cleared sufficiently for the launch to occur. The satellite was deployed by PAM upper
stage on the second flight day at Mission Elapsed Time 23 hours 30 minutes. All five crew members were involved in the intricate operation, with Thornton operating cameras and VTR equipment throughout the entire sequence. The launch panel display used for the deployment was part of Thornton's CB technical assignment to develop crew station displays, controls and deployment procedures and plans in the mid-1970s. It fascinated him to see it in action years later.
The TDRS-B had been taken off the flight and was replaced by a 3,375-kg dumbbell-shaped Payload Flight Test Article (PFTA), designed to be grappled by the Remote Manipulator for a series of tests that involved moving the arm with a load attached. This was a simulation of satellite deployment and retrieval activities that would be conducted using the RMS on later missions. While the crew operated a series of experiments, including testing communications with Mission Control via the TDRS-A satellite, Bill Thornton performed a suite of experiments on the mid-deck aimed at collecting data on the SAS phenomenon.
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The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.