Voss speaks at Stennis for Women’s History Month

Published 3:38 pm Thursday, March 27, 2008

To honor women who go beyond everyday jobs during Women’s History Month Stennis Space Center hosted astronaut Janice Voss, who has been on five space shuttle missions.

Those five missions spanned from 1993 to 2000 where the missions ranged from retrieval to topographic 3D mapping.

After giving the audience their choice of one of her five missions an audience member picked her last mission, STS 99, for her to share.

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Voss then described the 11 day mission that featured an international crew including the first Japanese astronaut. Using a robotic arm with a radar device attached the shuttle mission involved flying around the earth to perform topographical observations. Data was recorded onto magnetic tape and after two years of study on the ground it was used to produce accurate elevation maps, Voss said.

Those updated maps are used by a number of companies for a number of reasons. Trucking companies use them to find the flattest route since large trucks have trouble in high elevations, Voss said.

After covering the highlights of the mission Voss took questions from the audience that ranged from how she felt about mission STS 83 when the fuel cell failed to her favorite kind of chocolate.

She gave a brief rundown of what really transpired with the fuel cell. Voss said the fuel cell appeared to be malfunctioning so the mission was cut short as a precaution.

As for her favorite chocolate, she has a list. Each time she tries a new kind of chocolate she marks it off on her list, ensuring she does not try the same kind twice. She then gave a short list of her favorites, never picking only one.

Another audience member asked Voss what advice she would share with young women who would like to become astronauts. Voss said prospective astronauts, or anyone wanting to seek any dream, should be willing to achieve excellence, have enthusiasm and follow a path to their enjoyment. That path may not lead them where they plan so the ability to be flexible is essential to find the path to happiness.

“Have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself…,” Voss said. “You have to be willing to say ‘okay, plan B’ and be willing to flex.”

She then used her college career to obtain her Ph.D. as an example. She said college career was torturous with many twists and turns. But with dedication and the ability to flex she earned her doctorate in Aeronautics in 1977 and another in Astronautics in 1987. Both were from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her future goals involve speaking at a number of high schools to entice girls, and boys, to seek careers dealing with math and science. Education in those fields could lead them to a career in space. She would also like to get married someday but said she would not have given up a single shuttle mission in exchange for finding someone.