Remembering Apollo 11

Nation to celebrate 50th anniversary
of Apollo 11 moon landing

Madison, Ind., lays claim to its own astronaut
– the late Janice Voss

2019 Cover

(April 2019) – This year, the nation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which occurred on July 20, 1969. Events are planned at several sites across the country, inviting families and students to come visit and learn about this special moment in history.
The three astronauts on that mission – Cmdr. Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. and command module pilot Michael Collins – fulfilled President John Kennedy’s dramatic and ambitious goal made on May 25, 1961, before U.S. Congress of sending an American safely to the moon before the end of the decade. An estimated 530 million Americans watched the TV images with wonder, pride and amazement as Armstrong set foot on the moon, proclaiming, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Indiana has played a key role in producing NASA astronauts, with 24 of them, including Armstrong, earning their degrees at Purdue University’s famed engineering school, the so-called “cradle of astronauts.” Over the years, seven NASA astronauts had Indiana roots, including Gus Grissom, the second American in space and one of the original “Mercury 7.” He hailed from Mitchell, Ind. Grissom was killed in 1967 with two other astronauts when a fire broke out in their spacecraft during a practice launch. Today, the Virgil I. Gus Grissom Memorial Museum stands in his honor at the entrance of Spring Mill State Park near Mitchell. And the airport in Bedford, Ind., is named in his honor.

NASA photo

The Apollo 11 lunar module soars through space on way to the moon in 1969.

But Madison, Ind., lays claim to its own famous astronaut, even if she didn’t ever live there. The late Janice Voss, who set a record for female astronauts with five spaceflights, claimed Jefferson County, Ind., as her adopted home because her parents, James and Louise Hinds Voss, retired to Louise’s family farm in Dupont, while Janice continued to pursue her NASA career in Houston.
The second of the Voss’ four daughters, Janice was born in South Bend, Ind., but spent little time there. The family soon moved to Rockford, Ill., and later, when Janice was in the seventh grade, on to Massachusetts, where she finished high school.
James Voss, a Purdue University engineer with a doctorate degree in nuclear physics, had his own successful career working for various corporations and is still an active consultant. While in South Bend, he helped develop the U.S. Navy’s guided missile program.

NASA photo

Astronaut Janice Voss is suited up and ready for takeoff in this NASA photo. The South Bend, Ind., native died in February 2012 at age 55 from breast cancer.

Louise Voss, a Purdue graduate, holds a master’s degree in home economics from the University of Connecticut and is a retired high school teacher. After retirement, Louise became active in local politics and served two terms on the Wilbraham, Mass., Board of Selectmen, essentially a town council. In fact, she became the first woman to be elected to that board. It was her family’s farm in Dupont that drew the Vosses there a decade ago, according to her brother, Elbert Hinds of Dupont. Hinds, a retired U.S. Civil Service employee, attended all but one of his niece’s Shuttle launches and witnessed one landing.
She was just 16 and a freshman at Purdue University when she first worked for NASA, as an intern at the Johnson Space Center. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in engineering science in 1975, she returned to the center to train crews in navigation and entry guidance. She went on to earn a master’s in electrical engineering, in 1977, and a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics, in 1987, both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It all started, her mother said, when Janice was 6 and picked up a book at the local library, “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle – a fantasy in which one of the main characters is a scientist who happens to be a woman.
Hinds, Janice’s uncle, said the future astronaut was likely influenced at an early age in math and science, largely because of her father’s career.

NASA photo

Exhibited for decades in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum's Apollo to the Moon gallery, Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 spacesuit rests inside this glass case and will be on display during the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration.

“Jim was always good in math, and they used to play math games at the dinner table when the girls were young,” Hinds said. “Janice did so well in school that she skipped a grade. But her father didn’t try to influence any of his children and let them go their own way.”
Janice has said that it was more her own interest in science fiction that influenced her decision to pursue a career with NASA. She said her father supported her decision but did not push her toward math or science. 
James Voss said that his career in the sciences no doubt had some influence on his daughters, but that Janice, more than the others, took an early interest in science and pursued it fully as a career.
Janice Voss became an astronaut in 1991. A mission specialist, she first flew aboard STS-57 in June 1993 aboard the Endeavor. She helped conduct experiments during what was also the maiden voyage of the Spacehab module, a 9,600-pound pressurized laboratory mounted in the orbiter’s payload bay. Spacehab was the first commercial laboratory launched into space, its primary purpose to offer industrial and academic researchers access to space.
She then flew on STS-63 aboard Discovery in February 1995, which rendezvoused with the Russian space station, Mir, for the first time.

Purdue University photo

The VOSS Model is a scaled model of the solar system dedicated to Janice Voss and located at Purdue University’s Discovery Park in west Lafayette, Ind. Jeff Laramore and Tom Fansler of Smock Fansler Corp. in Indianapolis designed the $1.5 million project.

In 1997, she served as payload commander on STS-83 aboard the Columbia. The mission was cut short due to problems with one of the shuttle’s three fuel cell power generation units. But the entire crew and payload re-flew on STS-94 three months later. It was the first time that an entire crew was launched twice to achieve the same mission.
On that second flight, with Voss in charge of experiments as payload commander, the crew set more than 140 small fires in insulated chambers to test the behavior of fire in weightlessness.
The tests were intended to gain a better understanding of how fire and heat work on Earth and also to address safety concerns after a 90-second fire flared aboard the Mir station five months earlier. She also coordinated experiments on how plants react in space, using a greenhouse containing about 50 spinach, clover, sage and periwinkle plants.
Voss’ fifth and final mission was STS-99 again aboard the Endeavor in 2000. This was the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which mapped more than 47 million square miles of the Earth’s land surface at unprecedented resolution levels. In total, Voss spent more than 49 days in space.

Pictured above are Janice Voss' parents, James and Louise Hinds Voss. Below is the late Janice Voss.

Voss visited Madison in April 2001 at age 44 when she appeared as the celebrity guest speaker at the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Regional Business Expo. Prior to her visit, Voss said in an interview with RoundAbout, “For school groups, I talk about working hard and being a good team player, because that’s what you have to do as an astronaut. If it’s adults, much of what I talk about deals with the benefits of space exploration and to make the case that our tax dollars are being spent wisely.”
At the time, Voss said she visited the family farm a few times each year, usually on holidays and special family occasions. But the rest of her time was spent in Houston, where one of her three sisters also lives.
On the ground in recent years, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Voss oversaw astronauts’ training in conducting experiments in space. One trainee was Cady Coleman, who at one point spent six months on the International Space Station. “Janice’s job was to make sure that the astronaut — whether he was a pilot or an engineer or a former policeman — could follow those directions. She was great at it, so clear, precise.”
Voss, who lived in Houston, died from breast cancer on Feb. 6, 2012, at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. She was 55. Today, she remains one of only six women to have gone into space five times.

Besides her parents, Voss is survived by three sisters, Linda Voss, Karen Voss and Victoria Fransham.

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