Janice Voss

Janice Elaine Voss was a NASA astronaut as well as an American Engineer whom flew in space five times placing her at first for holding the record for American women.

Voss was born on October 8, 1956 in South Bend, Indiana. She attended Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, Massachusetts and graduated in 1972. She then attended Purdue University to receive her bachelor’s degree in engineering while concurrently working at the Johnson Space Center. After Purdue University, Voss conquered MIT in 1977 by earning a S.M. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. To wrap up her success at MIT, she then proceeded to gain a doctorate in 1987 in aeronautics (i.e. astronautics).

With her extensive credentials and degrees, there is no wonder why Voss was chosen as a candidate for NASA in 1990, only a short three years from receiving her doctorate. After her selection as an astronaut, she flew as a mission specialist on missions STS-57 in 1993, STS-63 in 1995, the 1997 STS-83 mission, STS-94 in 1997 and finally her 2000 mission, STS-99.

The STS-57 Endeavour mission launched June 21, 1993 at 9:07 am EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the mission, Janice Voss along with Ron Grabe and Brian Duffy served as participants in the ‘Neutral Body Position’ study. This study tested the severity of the “zero-g crouch” which is the process in which the spine lengthens one- to two-inches throughout the duration of a single space mission. In order to accurately test this, in flight surgeons recorded the astronauts early in the mission and towards the end. After a total of nine days, twenty-three hours, forty-four minutes and fifty-four seconds and 155 orbits, the STS-57 Endeavour made its landing July 1, 1993 at 8:52 am EDT on KSC Runway 33.

On February 3, 1995, Space Shuttle Discovery launched to start the STS-63 mission at 5:22 am UTC from the Kennedy Space Center. This was the second mission for the US/ Russian Shuttle-Mir Program. During this mission, Voss helped to prepare for future dockings with the Mir space station by testing the strength of communications between potential docking shuttles and the space station itself. Following eight days, six hours, twenty-eight minutes and fifteen seconds and a total of 129 earth orbits, the Space Shuttle Discovery safely returned the crew on February 11, 1995 at 11:51 am UTC.

The STS-83 Columbia was a Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL) mission that began with its launch from launch pad 39-A at 2:20 pm on April 4, 1997 but was cut short because of problems with the shuttles second fuel tank. Originally, the flight was supposed to end after fifteen days and sixteen hours in space but after only after 3 days and 23 hours, the Space Shuttle Columbia returned at 2:33 pm EDT at the Kennedy Space Center, Runway 15 on April 8, 1997. NASA decided to give the mission another shot. On July 1, 1997 at 2:02 pm EDT, STS-94 Columbia was launched with the same goal as the STS-83 Columbia mission. This mission lasted fifteen days, sixteen hours and forty-five minutes and landed July 17, 1997 at the Kennedy Space Center. Janice Voss served as a Mission Specialist on both of these flights.

Her final mission, STS-99 Endeavour, was launched on February 11, 2000 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This mission was labeled as a Shuttle Radar Topography Mission in which they constantly move to produce the best topographic images of Earth. After eleven days, five hours, thirty-nine minutes and forty-one seconds, the STS-99 Endeavour landed February 22, 2000 at 6:23 pm EST at the Kennedy Space Center on Runway 33.

Between October 2004 and November 2007, she worked with NASA’s Kepler Space Observatory to design a satellite that would orbit Earth in order to find planets in neighboring solar systems that had conditions and environments quite like Earth’s. She also worked as the Payloads Lead in the Astronaut Office Station Branch and with flight operation support at the Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Janice Voss worked all the way up until she lost her battle with breast cancer on February 6, 2012 at the age of 55. She died in Scottsdale, Arizona. She will be remembered as one of the only women to have flown in space five times and an idol for women everywhere.

Image Caption: Portrait astronaut Janice Voss. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia