NASA names a woman to lead Kennedy Space Center for the first time

Janet Petro has been acting director since May

Janet Petro is the new director of Kennedy Space Center. (WKMG 2021)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – On Wednesday NASA administrator Bill Nelson announced Janet Petro will replace Bob Cabana as the new director of the Kennedy Space Center, making her the first woman to lead the center, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

“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.”

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Petro served as deputy director of Kennedy since 2007 before being named acting director in May after Cabana was promoted to NASA’s associate administrator working directly with Nelson at headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“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 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.”

Who is NASA’s Janet Petro?

During a Minority Student Education Forum in Summer 2010, Kennedy Space Center Deputy Director Janet Petro talks to hundreds of fifth- through 12th-grade students. (mage credit: NASA/Cory Huston) (NASA)

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.

At Kennedy, Petro will oversee the center’s spaceport, supporting both commercial customers and NASA’s science and human exploration missions.

Nelson also named Vanessa Wyche director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Wyche has served as the acting director of Johnson since May 3 after Ellen Ochoa retired who was the first Hispanic director of Johnson. Wyche is the first African American woman to lead a NASA center.

“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.”

Contact Rachael Joy at 321-242-3577. Follow her on Twitter @Rachael_Joy.