Janice Voss (1956-2012) decided her career path at age six after reading Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," a book featuring a woman scientist and adventurer. Voss would go on to become one of NASA's most accomplished astronauts. Selected for training in 1990 as the first female astronaut from MIT, during the course of her career Voss logged almost 49 days in space, conducted numerous experiments with fire and plants, and collected data on earth topography, among other scientific pursuits. A longtime spokesperson for the space industry and the ultra-importance of math and science education, Voss also received numerous honors during her lifetime, including the NASA Spaceflight Medal in 1993 and 1995. In 2014, Orbital Sciences launched the SS Janice Voss, which traveled to the International Space Station, and was named in recognition of her work as a pioneer in space exploration.
In 1976, Voss entered MIT, where she learned the skills that would allow her to realize her childhood dream of spaceflight. She earned her Master of Science in electrical engineering in 1977 following the completion of her thesis on Kalman filtering techniques. That thesis proved so valuable that it was eventually turned into a workbook for astronauts at NASA. Voss then decided to stay at MIT and continue her education in the Aero-Astro Department, where she examined the guidance and control of large space structures. While at MIT, she was also a Draper Laboratory Fellow and worked on developing software for the space shuttle program. Her thesis involved developing algorithms to identify frequencies, damping, and mode shapes for the International Space Station. In 1987, Voss received her PhD in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT.
The five-time space traveler remained tethered to her alma mater throughout the years. In addition to her duties at NASA, Voss also served as a member of her department's Visiting Committee at MIT. A frequent visitor to her old stomping grounds, Voss made campus headlines in 1997, when she returned for a public event sponsored by the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium. After discussing her college days, Voss encouraged MIT students in their drive for space exploration. "This is a good place to get an education if you want to be an astronaut," she said. "More astronauts have come from MIT than from any other private institution."