RENO, Nev. — August 8, 2018 — Campers at Sierra Nevada Journeys’ space-themed summer camp, Out of This World, had a very special otherworldly guest visit them at Grizzly Creek Ranch in Portola, Calif. Astronaut Susan J. Helms, Lieutenant General, USAF, was the first woman to go where no woman had gone before – to live aboard the International Space Station and spent the morning with campers sharing her experiences in space.
In 1976, Helms broke barriers as part of the first Air Force Academy class to admit women. “Back in the 70’s the military was one of the places women could get equal pay for equal work,” said Helms. Her military career in aeronautics led to being selected for the astronaut program. During her career, Helms made five trips to space, including spending six months on the Space Station. Now, Helms spends her time encouraging young men and women to explore the science and technology fields.
“If you don’t feel like you have barriers, then what you can accomplish becomes ever so much more expansive,” said Helms. Her stories and can-do spirit that broke space barriers may have inspired some future astronauts and scientists.
About Helms’ Career
Helms has logged 5,064 hours in space and holds the world record for the longest spacewalk.
Her first mission was in January 1993, aboard STS-54 space shuttle Endeavour. The primary objective of this mission was to deploy a $200 million Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-F).
Her second mission was aboard STS-64 in September 1994 as a flight engineer and the primary Remote Manipulator System (RMS) operator.
From June 20 to July 7, 1996, aboard STS-78, Helms was the payload commander and flight engineer on the longest space shuttle mission to date. The mission included studies sponsored by 10 nations and five space agencies.
Helms flew again aboard STS-101 in May 2000 and performed critical repairs to extend the life of the Functional Cargo Block (FGB) on the International Space Station.
From March to August 2001, Helms became the first woman to live and serve aboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition-2 crew. Helms installed the Quest Joint Airlock to the Unity module using the newly installed Canadarm2. The crew welcomed a visiting Soyuz crew that included the first space tourist. Helms also performed a world record 8-hour, 56-minute spacewalk to install hardware to the external body of the laboratory module.
After a 12-year career with NASA that included 211 days in space, Helms returned to the U.S. Air Force until retiring as a three-star general in 2014.
In 2011, Helms was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.