Place of Birth
Charlotte, North Carolina
Politics, Government & Military Service, STEM / Aviation
The Aerospace Corporation
Colorado Springs, Cape Canaveral
Susan Helms is an explorer and risk-taker with a lifetime of first accomplishments for women. A retired Air Force lieutenant general (LTG) and astronaut, Helms was the first military woman in space and holds the world record for the longest spacewalk (eight hours, 56 minutes). She was a member of the first Air Force Academy class which included women (Class of 1980), and as a USAF Flight Test Engineer, flew on over 30 types of aircraft (including the F-15, F-16 and CF-18 fighters). As a NASA Astronaut, she is a five-time space flyer, and was the first women to serve on the International Space Station (ISS).
LTG Helms graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980 with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering. She earned her MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in 1985, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School. From 1990 to 2002, as a NASA Astronaut, she logged 211 days in space, including her 167-day mission on the ISS.
Subsequent to her tour at NASA, she was reassigned in 2002 to USAF Space Command in Colorado Springs. She was then appointed Director of Plans and Policy for the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, and served as the first female Commander of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 2006-2008. Her last assignment was as the first female Commander of both the 14th Air Force, USAF Space Command, and Joint Forces Component Command-Space, US Strategic Command. LTG Helms retired from military service in 2014.
A highly decorated military officer, Helms’ honors include the Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters. She received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and Outstanding Leadership Medal. LTG Helms received the R. L. Jones Award for Outstanding Flight Test Engineer at the Air Force Test Pilot School, and in 2011 she was inducted into the Astronauts Hall of Fame. Now consulting and serving on corporate boards, she advocates for female voices at the highest level in American business and government. She also serves as a role model for students pursuing a STEM education.