Janice E. Voss, a Purdue University alumna and one of the few women to travel into space, has lost her battle with breast cancer, the school said.
Voss, 55, died Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she was receiving treatment.
Voss, who was born in South Bend, logged five space flights, spending a total of 49 days in space and traveled 18.8 million miles in 779 Earth orbits.
Voss earned her bachelor's degree in engineering science in 1975 from Purdue and her doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She became an astronaut in 1991 and her first flight was aboard the STS57 for 10 days in 1993. She was later part of space missions in 1995, two in 1997 and the last in 2000.
The last mission was an 11-day flight during which the international crew aboard shuttle Endeavour mapped more than 47 million square miles of the Earth's land surface.
In 2000, Voss set her spacesuit aside and most recently led the payload effort for NASA's station integration branch of the astronaut office, with a focus on the International Space Station.
"I think the world will see 2001 as a major turning point in history, the time when our space odyssey took off," she said of her era in space during a December interview. "That is when we began having people in space continuously for an entire year, with our shuttle flights and the International Space Station."
Purdue often invited Voss back to campus, which she said was the reason she gave her memorabilia to the Purdue Library's Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives.
Her contributions to the archives include not only professional papers and video of her space flights and interviews, but also records of her childhood, including school report cards.
"Purdue has always made its astronauts feel like they are a special part of its family," Voss said in an earlier interview.
A Purdue news release called Voss a champion of the space program. The school said plans for a memorial service are pending.
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