Two NASA Centers Get New Directors — Both Women

Two NASA Centers Get New Directors — Both Women

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced two key agency appointments today. Vanessa Wyche is the new Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Janet Petro is now Director of Kennedy Space Center. Both were deputy directors of those centers who have been serving as acting directors for the past month. Four of NASA’s nine civil service field centers now have women in the top jobs.

Janet Petro, Director, NASA Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

Petro is the first woman to lead Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at Cape Canaveral, FL in its almost 60 year history.  She was Bob Cabana’s deputy before Cabana moved up to NASA Headquarters last month to serve as Associate Administrator, the top civil servant in the agency.

A 1981 West Point graduate, Petro earned a bachelor of science in engineering as a member of the second class at the U.S. Military Academy to include women. She also has a master of science in business administration from Boston University’s Metropolitan College.

As an Army Captain stationed primarily in Germany, she flew helicopters. After fulfilling her Army duties, she held engineering and management positions at Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) and McDonnell Douglas Aerospace. She was named KSC Deputy Director in 2007.

In a statement today she said: “Having grown up on Florida’s Space Coast and being the second generation in my family to work at Kennedy Space Center, it’s truly exciting to help grow the multi-user spaceport as we prepare for Artemis and continue launching commercial crew missions to the International Space Station.”

Vanessa Wyche, Director, NASA Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: Bill Stafford

Wyche was deputy director of Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX from 2018 until last month when she was appointed acting Director following Mark Geyer’s retirement for health reasons. She is the third woman to lead the center (Carolyn Huntoon was Director from 1994-1995 and Ellen Ochoa from 2013-2018) and the first African American woman to lead any NASA center.

A 31-year NASA veteran, Wyche has a bachelor of science in engineering and master of science in bioengineering from Clemson University. Among the many positions she has held at NASA, she was flight manager for multiple space shuttle missions and director of JSC’s Exploration Integration and Science Directorate.

Today she said:  “As the home to America’s astronaut corps, International Space Station mission operations, the Orion and Gateway programs, and a host of future space developments, Johnson is a world leader in human space exploration and is playing a key role in the next giant leaps in American excellence in space. I look forward to working with everyone as we push forward to the Moon and inspire a new generation of explorers to reach for the stars.”

Two other NASA centers are led by women already.  Jody Singer is Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL and Marla Pérez-Davis is Director of Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH.

NASA’s other center Directors are Eugene Tu (Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA), David McBride (Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA), Dennis Andrucyk (Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD), Clayton Turner (Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA), and Richard Gilbrech (Stennis Space Center, Bay St. Louis, MS).

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology. Michael Watkins is JPL’s Director.

In making the appointments today, Nelson said both women are “exceptional leaders who will help propel NASA forward as we venture farther out into the cosmos than ever before.”  NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, a former astronaut at JSC, called Wyche a “tenacious leader who has broken down barriers throughout her career.” Cabana praised Petro as an “incredible partner” throughout the years they worked together at KSC. “There is no one better to lead the incredible team at Kennedy.”

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