Susan Helms

The photo shows Susan Helms on the ISS, her curly hair spreads out in the zero gravity environment. The podcast logo is on the lower left.
Women in STEM
Susan Helms

Birth: February 26, 1958

Specialty: Aeronautical Engineering

Major Contributions:

Five space flights

Longest spacewalk (w/Jim Voss)

First woman to live on the ISS

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

On January 13, 1993, NASA mission STS-54  launched from Kennedy Space Center.  Aboard that flight was astronaut Susan Helms.

Before joining NASA Susan Helms was an accomplished Flight Test Engineer and project officer in the United States Air Force, flying over 30 different types of military aircraft. A 1980 graduate of the Air Force Academy with a degree in aeronautical engineering she continued her education at Stanford University earning a master’s degree in aeronautics/astronautics in 1985. She was selected to join NASA in 1990 and became an astronaut in 1991 on her first mission – an almost six day  flight aboard the Endeavor.

In September 1994 Helms logged her second space flight, this time aboard the shuttle Discovery where she served as flight engineer for orbiter operations and the primary Remote Manipulator. This flight was followed with a sixteen day mission aboard the shuttle Columbia in 1996.

May 2000 was her fourth flight into space where she performed critical repairs to help extend the life of the Functional Cargo Block on the International Space Station and was responsible for the onboard computer network and served as the mission specialist for rendezvous with the ISS. 

For her final flight into space Helms was a member of Expedition 2 that comprised the second crew aboard the International Space Station Alpha, arriving by the shuttle Discovery in March 2001. It was during her stay on the ISS that she logged the longest “spacewalk” in history of eight hours and fifty six minutes in order to perform work on the external body of one of the modules.  Helms was aboard the ISS for a total of 163 days, and logged a total of 5,064 hours in space.

Helms spent 12 years with NASA and in 2002 returned to duty with the U.S. Air Force until 2014 when she retired after achieving the rank of lieutenant general. Since her retirement she has served as a member of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel,  was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and established her own consulting company, Orbital Visions, LLC.  In recognition of her lifetime accomplishments Helms has received numerous medals and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Written by Angela Goad


Wikipedia: Susan Helms

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation: Susan J. Helms

Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame Biography

Aerospace Biography

NASA Astronaut Bio: Susan J. Helms (Archived)

See Also:

Space Facts: Susan Helms

What is a Spacewalk?