Janice Voss, astronaut and Rockford native, passes away at 55
Online Staff Report
Janice Voss, a five-time astronaut and Rockford native, passed away Monday, Feb. 6, at the age of 55. She had been battling cancer and lived in Houston at the time of her death.
Voss was born in South Bend, Ind., Oct. 8, 1956, but lived in Rockford from 1960 to 1967 and considered herself a Rockford native. She attended Guilford Center School and graduated from Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, Mass., in 1972.
Voss earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Purdue University while working on a co-op at the Johnson Space Center. She earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1977. She then earned her doctorate in aeronautics/astronautics from MIT in 1987.
Voss made five flights into space as mission specialist between 1991 and 2000, logging more than 49 days in space, traveling 18.8 million miles and circling the Earth 779 times. Her five missions tied her with the record for the most spaceflights by a woman.
Voss was chosen by NASA for the astronaut corps in January 1990, and flew with the first commercial laboratory, rendezvoused with Russia’s Mir space station and assisted in creating the most complete digital topographic map of Earth.
In 2004, four years after her final trip into space, Voss transferred from Johnson Space Center in Houston to NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., where she led the science program for NASA’s Kepler space observatory.
Kepler was launched in March 2009 and was designed to search for Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. The observatory has confirmed 61 exoplanets and identified more than 2,000 planetary candidates.
In 2007, Voss left Ames and most recently served as the payload lead in the astronaut office’s space station branch at Johnson Space Center.
In a NASA statement, chief astronaut Peggy Whitson said: “As the payload commander of two space shuttle missions, Janice was responsible for paving the way for experiments that we now perform on a daily basis on the International Space Station. By improving the way scientists are able to analyze their data, and establishing the experimental methods and hardware necessary to perform these unique experiments, Janice and her crew ensured that our space station would be the site of discoveries that we haven’t even imagined.
“During the last few years, Janice continued to lead our office’s efforts to provide the best possible procedures to crews operating experiments on the station today,” Whitson added. “Even more than Janice’s professional contributions, we will miss her positive outlook on the world and her determination to make all things better.”
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