Marcia Ann Thornton


Marcia Ann Thornton is the primary owner and lead engineer for Lazy MJ Ranch, Inc.  She has over 35 years of experience on various technology projects in both federal government and private industry.


Ms. Thornton has a Master of Science in Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering.

Work Experience

For the past two years, Ms. Thornton has been the owner and principal engineering consultant for Lazy MJ Ranch, Inc.  In that capacity she has provided engineering management support to technology firms.

From 1998 to 2007 she was the Deputy for  Programmatics, Satellite Active Imaging National Testbed (SAINT), Trex Enterprises, Albuquerque, New Mexico.  In that role, she supervised technical staff of up to 15 scientists, engineers, and technicians.  She also worked on safety analyses and environmental assessment process.  Her primary task was to oversee the development of the receiver design for GEO Light Imaging National Testbed, a program sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory to use a laser to image satellites in geosynchronous orbit.  She performed mechanical design analysis of various system components.

In an ancillary role, Ms. Thornton served as the Executive Assistant to Department of Defense Coordinator for Mars 2003 space mission which used small nuclear heater sources.  Her responsibilities included review of Delta launch vehicle databook and various Safety Analysis Reports prepared by the Mars 2003 program office.  She provided special assistance to the Presidentially-mandated Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel Coordinators during preparation of the Safety Evaluation Report that was briefed to the President’s Science Advisor.

From 1989 to 1998 Ms. Thornton was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force assigned as the Director for Nuclear Energy Systems and Department of Defense Coordinator for Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel, Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.  She supervised technical staff of up to 8 scientists and engineers.  She participated in Presidentially-mandated Interagency Nuclear Review Panel independent safety reviews of nuclear-powered space missions including Galileo mission to explore Jupiter and its moons, Ulysses mission to orbit the poles of the Sun, Pathfinder mission to Mars, and Cassini mission to explore Saturn and its moons.  In this position, Ms. Thornton served as Department of Defense INSRP Coordinator for Cassini mission.  Her areas of expertise included launch vehicle failure modes and associated probability distributions, accident scenario development and definition, resultant radioactive source term characterization, and probabilistic risk assessment to integrate all aspects of the safety analysis.  Ms. Thornton also performed safety oversight for Air Force reactor and former reactor burial sites.  Her duties included review of safety analyses and technical specifications, certification of all levels of reactor operations personnel, inspections of all aspects of reactor operations, chair of special reactor studies to recommend approval of major changes to facility and/or its operations, and issuance of all reactor permits.  She was the course director and primary instructor for internal basic nuclear reactor and weapons theory courses for Directorate of Nuclear Surety staff.  She participated in the New Mexico Academy of Sciences Visiting Scientist Program visiting junior high and high schools statewide to talk about “Living and Working in Space” and “The Solar System” based on years of work with the space program.

Galileo at Io with Jupiter in the background
(NASA image)
Ulysses Orbiting the Sun
(NASA image)
Cassini Releasing Huygens Probe into Titan's Atmosphere
(NASA image)
McClellan Nuclear Research Center Reactor (Univ. of California-Davis image)

From 1985 to 1988, Ms. Thornton served as a major in the Air Force assigned as Chief, Radiofrequency Division and Director, Small Spacecraft Experimentation Center, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.  In that position she supervised staff of up to 25 scientists, engineers, and technicians charged with developing new and innovative concepts for monitoring international compliance with various nuclear weapon test ban treaties.  She organized and directed worldwide deployments of personnel and equipment to test and validate monitoring concepts.  She also supervised development and integration of several space-based experiments flown on the Space Shuttle (in-cabin, get-away-special and free flyer) to test and validate treaty monitoring concepts.

Upshot Knothole Grable Nuclear Test
( image)
GetAway Special Rack
(Canadian Space Agency image)

From 1982 to 1985 Ms. Thornton was a captain in the Air Force assigned as a Physicist/Analyst, Field Command Defense Nuclear Agency, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.  She conducted analyses for nuclear weapons development, nuclear weapons effects, survivability, and vulnerability programs.  Ms. Thornton performed scientific and technical liaison with Department of Energy laboratories (Sandia, Los Alamos, and Livermore) in areas of survivability analyses, countering terrorist threats against nuclear capable units, Nuclear Emergency Search Team and Accident Response Group activities, nuclear weapons hardware improvements, and computer modeling.  She was a member of technical support team for Nuclear Weapons Accident Exercise 1983 (NUWAX-83).  Because of her technical expertise, she served as the Defense Nuclear Agency representative to Technical Assessment Group studying plutonium scatter in support of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy.  She spearheaded commandwide program to increase the quality and quantity of nuclear trained officers for the Military Services.

Joint DoD (DNA), DOE, and FEMA personnel participating in NUWAX exercise (simulated crash of Navy helicopter) at Nevada Test Site on May 5, 1983 as part of NUWAX ’83. (DNA image)

From 1979 to 1982, Ms. Thornton served as a captain in the Air Force assigned as an Instructor, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland.  She taught applied thermodynamics to non-engineering majors and introduction to naval engineering to freshmen.  During summer sessions, she taught one week crash courses in public speaking and war gaming to juniors.  Her extra duties included faculty advisor for Society of Women Engineers student chapter and Engineering Honor Society (precursor to full fledged Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society).

From 1978 to 1979 Ms. Thornton worked as a Staff Member, BDM Corporation, Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She developed portions of computer code to assess doses to individuals resulting from migration of the radioactive waste from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant at long times (greater than 1,000 years) after waste deposition.  Ms. Thornton also worked on computer simulation to determine effectiveness of laser weapons on combat aircraft using flight data information from Red Flag and similar exercises.

From 1974 to 1978 Ms. Thornton served as a lieutenant in the Air Force assigned as a Nuclear Research Officer, Air Force Weapons Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.  She supported Presidentially-mandated Interagency Nuclear Safety Review Panel independent reviews of nuclear-powered space missions including Viking mission to Mars, Lincoln Experimental Satellites 8 and 9 in Earth orbit, and Voyager mission to the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune).  Her areas of expertise included launch vehicle failure modes and rates corrected for historical performance, determination of radioactive source term, and transport of radioactive material through the environment to ultimate dose in humans.  She participated in solid rocket motor propellant project to provide test specimens by salvaging propellant from a surplus motor.  This project included hands-on cutting of Class B explosives with no adverse consequences and ultimately saved the Air Force over $75,000.

Simulated Viking Lander on Mars
(NASA image)
Voyager Flying Among the Stars
(NASA image)


Outside Activities

Marcia serves as organist and Clerk of Session at the Magdalena Community Church.  She is active in the Ladies' Circle, adult Bible Study, and Village Quilters.

Marcia and Don (her husband of over 30 years) are building a dome house on their land outside of Magdalena.  That home will be shared with their two grandsons: Christopher (age 10) and James (age 8).  They raise dairy goats for milk and cheese, rabbits for meat, and chickens for eggs and meat.  They also enjoy making their own sausages and canning vegetables from their garden.

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