James S. Voss

Soaring with NASA

Inducted in 2002

Jim Voss, retired U.S. Army colonel, spent six years earning two degrees in aerospace engineering, then spent fifteen more years soldiering before he could put his engineering skills to use. But what remarkable use he is ultimately making of them, as a NASA astronaut. This summer, while his associates sought his induction into the Hall of Fame, Col. Voss was living and working in orbit, carrying out a five and a half-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

A seasoned space voyager, Col. Voss has worked from the Johnson Space Center since 1984, the culmination of an exemplary Army career begun in an Auburn University ROTC program. Upon graduating and becoming a second lieutenant in 1972, Col. Voss entered the aerospace engineering master’s program at the University of Colorado, on an Army fellowship. Degree acquired, he attended the Army Infantry Basic Course and Airborne and Ranger schools. He served with the 2nd Battalion 48th Infantry in Germany, as platoon leader, intelligence staff officer, and company commander. Back in the U.S., he completed the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and was assigned to teach Thermofluid Dynamics at the U.S. Military Academy, which he did for three years.

Col. Voss was then chosen for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and the Armed Forces Staff College. His next post, following study at these schools, was with the Army’s Aviation Engineering Flight Activity, which he served as flight test engineer/research-and-development coordinator. He participated in several major testing projects before joining NASA, where his initial duties also involved flight testing. As a vehicle integration test engineer, beginning in 1984, Col. Voss supported Space Shuttle and payload testing at the Kennedy Space Center, for four Shuttle flights. In 1987, he was named an astronaut candidate.

Following a year’s training, he qualified as a mission specialist (and later payload commander) on the Space Shuttle. His experience includes five space flights aboard Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour, as well as the ISS, deploying satellites, conducting scientific experiments, and assembling large yet delicate equipment. One earthbound bio-researcher illustrated Col. Voss’s conscientiousness by describing the unexpected telephone call — from ISS — in which Voss offered computer-troubleshooting assistance above and beyond his tightly scheduled ISS day. “Sincere enthusiasm such as this from an astronaut spreads goodwill throughout the scientific community,” he added.

Col. Voss has logged 202 days in space and has conducted four space walks from the Shuttle and ISS. In addition, he belonged to the backup crew of two missions to the Russian space station Mir, which entailed two years’ residence and training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Col. Voss’s distinguished achievements began garnering prestigious honors as early as 1974. He was the Distinguished Graduate of his Infantry Officer Basic Course, and the Honor Graduate of his Ranger school. He received the Army Commendation Medal in 1978, the Meritorious Service Medal in 1982, the Defense Superior Service Medal in 1992, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal in 1993, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1994, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Award in 1996, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 2001. In 1983, he earned the Outstanding Student Award from the USN Test Pilot School; in 1982, he was honored as the Outstanding Professor at the U.S. Military Academy; and he received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Colorado in 2000.

Honors so freely bestowed on a native son, educated in Alabama schools, reflects well on this state. Born in Cordova, Col. Voss calls Opelika his hometown, although he and his family live in Houston today. He is married to the former Suzan Curry, a native of Birmingham, and they have a daughter, Kristie. He returns frequently to Auburn University to share with students his passion for space exploration. Praised for his approachable, accommodating manner, he is also described as articulate and as adept with children, to whom he presents school programs about space flight.

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