[Susan Helms] [NASA Logo]
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas 77058

Biographical Data

NAME: Susan J. Helms (Lieutenant Colonel, USAF)
NASA Astronaut

Born February 26, 1958, in Charlotte, North Carolina, but considers Portland, Oregon, to be her hometown. She enjoys jazz piano and other musical activities, jogging, traveling, reading, flying, and cooking. Plays keyboard for MAX-Q, a rock-n-roll band. Her parents, Lt. Col. (Ret., USAF) Pat and Dori Helms, reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Graduated from Parkrose Senior High School, Portland, Oregon, in 1976; received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980, and a master of science degree in aeronautics/astronautics from Stanford University in 1985.

Women Military Aviators; U.S. Air Force Academy Association of Graduates; Stanford Alumni Association; Association of Space Explorers.

Recipient of the Distinguished Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, NASA Space Flight Medals, and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. Named a Distinguished Graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School, and recipient of the R.L. Jones Award for Outstanding Flight Test Engineer, Class 88A. In 1990, she received the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment Commanding Officer's Commendation, a special award unique to the Canadian Forces. Named the Air Force Armament Laboratory Junior Engineer of the Year in 1983.

Helms graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980. She received her commission and was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, as an F-16 weapons separation engineer with the Air Force Armament Laboratory. In 1982, she became the lead engineer for F-15 weapons separation. In 1984, she was selected to attend graduate school. She received her degree from Stanford University in 1985 and was assigned as an assistant professor of aeronautics at the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1987, she attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. After completing one year of training as a flight test engineer, Helms was assigned as a USAF Exchange Officer to the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, Canadian Forces Base, Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada, where she worked as a flight test engineer and project officer on the CF-18 aircraft. She was managing the development of a CF-18 Flight Control System Simulation for the Canadian Forces when selected for the astronaut program.

As a flight test engineer, Helms has flown in 30 different types of U.S. and Canadian military aircraft.

Selected by NASA in January 1990, Helms became an astronaut in July 1991. A veteran of three space flights, Helms has logged over 800 hours in space. She flew on STS-54 in 1993, STS-64 in 1994, and STS-78 1996.

Helms is currently assigned to STS-100, a mission dedicated to the delivery and assembly of critical hardware and crew for the International Space Station. She will be a member of the second crew to inhabit the International Space Station (ISS-2). The 3.5-month stay aboard the International Space Station is targeted to begin in April 2000. She will be one a three member crew (two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut). The crew will install and conduct tests on the Canadian made Space Station Robotic arm (SSRMS), unload the Italian made Logistics module, conduct internal and external maintenance tasks, conduct medical and science experiments. During her stay onboard the Space Station, STS-104 will bring up the Airlock which will be added to the Space Station. Helms will be the SSRMS operator taking the Airlock from the Shuttle and will berth the Airlock to the Space Station. The ISS-2 crew will return onboard a Space Shuttle that will transport their replacement crew.

On her first mission, Helms flew on the crew of STS-54, January 13-19, 1993. The primary objective was the deploy of a $200-million NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-F). A Diffuse X-Ray Spectrometer (DXS) carried in the payload bay, collected over 80,000 seconds of quality X-ray data that will enable investigators to answer questions about the origin of the Milky Way galaxy. The crew demonstrated the physics principles of everyday toys to an interactive audience of elementary school students across the United States. A highly successful Extravehicular Activity (EVA) resulted in many lessons learned that will benefit Space Station Freedom assembly. Mission duration was 5 days, 23 hours, 38 minutes, 17 seconds.

On STS-64, September 9-20, 1994, Helms was the flight engineer for orbiter operations and the primary RMS operator aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. The major objective of this flight was to validate the design and operating characteristics of Lidar in Space Technology Experiment (LITE) by gathering data about the Earth's troposphere and stratosphere. Additional objectives included the deploy and retrieval of SPARTAN-201, a free-flying satellite that investigated the physics of the solar corona, and the testing of a new EVA maneuvering device. The Shuttle Plume Impingement Flight Experiment (SPIFEX) was used to collect extensive data on the effects of jet thruster impingement, in preparation for proximity tasks such as space station docking. Mission duration was 10 days, 22 hours, 51 minutes.

On STS-78, June 20 to July 7, 1996, Helms was the payload commander and flight engineer aboard Columbia, on the longest Space Shuttle mission to date. The mission included studies sponsored by ten nations and five space agencies, and was the first mission to combine both a full microgravity studies agenda and a comprehensive life science investigation. The Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission served as a model for future studies on board the International Space Station. Mission duration was 16 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes.


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