Suggested Searches

Janet Kavandi portrait.

Janet L. Kavandi

Former Director, Glenn Research Center (Mar. 2016–Sept. 2019)

Janet L. Kavandi served as center director at NASA’s Glenn Research Center from March 14, 2016 until, September 30, 2019. During that period, Kavandi helped navigate the center through a government shutdown, the first steps in a major agency reorganization, and the introduction of NASA’s ambitious Artemis program.

Kavandi became interested in space in the early 1960s while watching the night skies and discussing the early US space activities with her father. She went on to earn bachelors and master’s degrees in chemistry in her native Missouri. Kavandi then worked in industry as an engineer while earning her doctoral degree at the University of Washington.

In 1994, Kavandi was inducted into NASA’s astronaut corps and served as a mission specialist on STS-91 in 1998, STS-99 in 2000, and STS-104 in 2001. In April 2002, Kavandi was among a small team of astronauts that visited NASA Glenn to learn about the Fluids Integration Rack and the Light Microscopy Module that were subsequently installed on the International Space Station.

Kavandi worked in various roles at Johnson Space Center (JSC) during the 2000s. In 2013, she was appointed director for Flight Crew Operations, where she chaired the committee that selected individuals for a new class of astronauts. Kavandi was subsequently named deputy director, then director of JSC’s Flight Crew Operations and deputy director of the Health and Human Performance Directorate.

After nearly 20 years at JSC, Kavandi was appointed as deputy director at NASA Glenn under Jim Free in February 2015. Kavandi’s new duties included planning, organizing, and managing the agency-level programs and projects assigned to the center.

In March 2016, after just over a year at the center, Kavandi was named center director.  As someone relatively new to the center and without a background in research, Kavandi focused on providing the staff with the means to succeed. “I think it’s sort of like the mayor of small, little community,” she noted later.

Janet Kavandi at podium.
Janet Kavandi meets with employees in May 2017.

During Kavandi’s first year as director, the center tested the European Service Module at Plum Brook Station (today, NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility) and was responsible for the design and development of the Space Launch System’s Universal Stage Adapter.

In October 2016, Kavandi introduced new set of professional standards, which she called “Glenn’s 7 Expected Behaviors.” She and her senior leadership spent months working on the effort, which was based on the HEROICS acronym—Helping All To Succeed, Excellence, Respect, Openness, Integrity, Cooperation and Safety.

In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed a directive instructing NASA to send humans to the Moon by 2025. The extensive effort included Gateway, a space station orbiting the Moon. In January 2018, Kavandi announced that the center was given responsibility for the solar electric propulsion thruster and the Power and Propulsion Element of the Gateway lunar platform.

Under Kavandi the center continued carrying out its facilities master plan with installation of a new main entrance at Plum Brook in early 2016, groundbreaking for the Research Support Building in August 2018, and the demolition of the Cyclotron and Special Projects Laboratory in 2018.

In June 2018, Administrator James Bridenstein recommended that Kavandi be appointed as deputy administration at NASA Headquarters. Ultimately, the Trump administration selected another candidate, and Kavandi continued as Glenn director. This included supporting the center’s Artemis activities, such as environmental testing of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle in the summer of 2018. Kavandi also had to deal with two government shutdowns when only essential security and maintenance work was permitted.   The 35-day closure from December 2018 to January 2019 was the longest shutdown in US history.

Kavandi’s announcement that she was retiring in September 2019 came as a surprise to many, who expected her to move on to an agency position. At her farewell gathering, Kavandi told the Glenn employees, “You gave me every opportunity to succeed, and you taught me a lot.  I’m so proud of everything that you do.”

Kavandi went on to serve as the president of Sierra Space in Louisville, Colorado. She has been recognized with a Presidential Rank Award, NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal, two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals, two Exceptional Service Medals, and three NASA Space Flight Medals. In April 2019, Kavandi was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center.

Additional Resources