NASA names women to leadership roles at Johnson and Kennedy Centers

AP logo
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
NASA names women to leadership roles at Johnson, Kennedy Centers
Called a "tenacious leader who has broken down barriers," Vanessa Wyche is the new director of JSC, and the first African American woman to lead a NASA center.

HOUSTON, Texas -- NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has named Vanessa Wyche director of the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Janet Petro director of Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Wyche has served as the acting director of Johnson since May 3 and Petro has served as the acting director of Kennedy since May 17.

"Both Vanessa and Janet are exceptional leaders who will help propel NASA forward as we venture farther out into the cosmos than ever before," said Nelson. "It's an incredible time at NASA, and with Vanessa and Janet leading the Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers, NASA will embark on a new era of space exploration - starting with the Artemis I launch to the Moon later this year."

"I'm humbled and honored to be chosen to lead the more than 10,000 employees at Johnson Space Center, who work each day to enhance scientific and technological knowledge via space exploration to benefit all of humankind," Wyche 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."

"It's an honor to be selected to lead Kennedy Space Center," Petro 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."

Before being named acting director, Wyche had served as deputy director of Johnson since August 2018. Wyche, a 31-year NASA veteran, also served as assistant center director at Johnson and director of the center's Exploration Integration and Science Directorate, and worked in the executive office of the NASA administrator, served as a flight manager for multiple space shuttle missions, and has led other center-level technical and program organizations. Wyche is a native of South Carolina and earned a Bachelor of Science in engineering and Master of Science in bioengineering from Clemson University. Wyche is the first African American woman to lead a NASA center.

"Vanessa is a tenacious leader who has broken down barriers throughout her career," said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. "Vanessa's more than three decades at NASA and program experience in almost all of the human spaceflight programs at Johnson is an incredible asset to the agency. In the years to come, I'm confident that Houston will continue to lead the way in human spaceflight."

As Johnson's director, Wyche will lead a center that is central to NASA's human spaceflight missions and home to the nation's astronaut corps, International Space Station mission operations, the Orion Program, and more.

Prior to being named Kennedy's acting director, Petro had served as the center's deputy director since 2007. She was central to Kennedy's transition to a multi-user spaceport, bringing a variety of new commercial and government partners to Kennedy. She led cross-agency initiatives with the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Air Force to streamline government processes and support commercial space operations, increase government efficiency, and limit redundancy.

Petro began her professional career as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. She graduated in 1981 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with a Bachelor of Science in engineering and was in the second class of West Point graduates to include women. Petro also holds a Master of Science in business administration from Boston University's Metropolitan College.

"Janet was an incredible partner leading Kennedy over the past 14 years, and I couldn't be happier that she will take over in a permanent capacity. There is no one better to lead the incredible team at Kennedy," said NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. "I'm confident that under Janet's leadership, Kennedy will continue to grow, building on its legacy as the United States' premier multi-user spaceport and supporting NASA and private industry's activities throughout the solar system."

At Kennedy, Petro will oversee the center's world class multi-user spaceport, supporting both commercial customers and NASA's science and human exploration missions.