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Peter Panetta

Senior Technical Leader for Safety

Peter Panetta joined the NASA Engineering and Safety Center in 2023 as the Senior Technical Leader for Safety. He brings more than 35 years of NASA experience across the areas of human spaceflight, science, aeronautics, and technology. His specialties include design and development, systems engineering, program/project management, technology development, risk management, and safety and mission assurance.

Mr. Panetta was previously the Senior Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) Manager to the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters. He provided leadership, expertise, and Technical Authority (TA) to a $7B annual portfolio of over 100 NASA science missions in formulation, implementation, and operation, ranging from $30M to >$10B. He engaged in all activities to enable the development and successful launch of >35 science missions, some of which include the James Webb Space Telescope, Mars Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity Helicopter, the Mars InSight Lander, OSIRIS-Rex Asteroid Sample Return, the DART Asteroid Impact, Parker Solar Probe, Landsat 8 & 9, and GOES and JPSS Weather Satellites. As SMA TA he was instrumental in ensuring missions satisfied Agency policy, guidelines, and directives, met acceptable levels of risk, achieved defined success criteria, and met annual performance goals.

Mr. Panetta became Assistant Director of the HQ SMD Planetary Science Division in 2013. He managed a $1.3B annual portfolio of solar system exploration missions in formulation, implementation, and operation. He enabled Agency confirmation for the InSight, OSIRIS-Rex, and Mars 2020 missions. He restructured the division’s technology development portfolio to prepare for the Mars Sample Return campaign.

In 2007, Peter joined the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance as the NASA HQ Flight Safety Manager for the final 18 Space Shuttle missions. He also held roles of HQ Safety and Mission Assurance Manager to the Launch Vehicle Services and Space Communications & Navigation Programs in the Space Operations Mission Directorate.

In response to the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident, Mr. Panetta joined the HQ Space Operations Mission Directorate. He held executive responsibility for all aspects of the Space Shuttle Return to Flight process. He established new policy, guidelines, and procedures for $750M in modifications to improve vehicle safety, program operation, organizational structure, and management culture. He also provided Agency systems engineering leadership to vehicle redesign, analysis, testing, and flight operations. He oversaw the preparation, launch, and safe operation of the first 4 Shuttle missions when NASA returned to flight in July 2005.

Prior to NASA HQ, Peter worked at Johnson Space Center as Deputy Launch Package Manager for 3 International Space Station (ISS) assembly missions to construct major segments of the laboratory in space. He managed delivery, testing, and launch of the ISS SO, S1, and P1 trusses, and on-orbit installation, making real time decisions affecting crew procedures, workload, and safety. He also managed the allocation, logistics, and transport of crew life support consumables brought to the ISS by the Space Shuttle.

Mr. Panetta began his NASA career at Goddard Space Flight Center. He led the design, development, integration, testing, launch, and operation of planetary spacecraft avionics systems for more than a dozen NASA space science missions. He later held positions as a mission systems engineer, project manager for establishing the line of Solar Terrestrial Probe missions, and Agency Small Satellite Technology Program Manager. His multi-Center Small Satellite development team earned worldwide leader recognition for their accomplishments.

Peter was a leader of the 2011 National Safety Council World Congress, also chairing a technical workshop and expert panel session. He was recruited by Dupont senior executives to help them improve their institutional safety culture. Mr. Panetta authored over a dozen papers and served as session chairman and expert panelist at international science and engineering conferences including the AGU, AIAA, IAF, IAC, and IAA. He published a book on Enabling Constellation Class Spacecraft Missions in 1998, and a refereed paper in the International Journal of Risk Management in 2001, on Risk Management Strategies for Complex Space Systems. Mr. Panetta has been featured in major periodicals such as Aviation Week, Science, Space News, the Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.

Peter is a recipient of the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the NASA Space Flight Awareness Award, and multiple Special Act, Outstanding Performance, and Mission Group Achievement awards. He holds NASA certifications in program/project management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. He is also a graduate of the NASA Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL) Program – Accelerated Leadership Option.

Mr. Panetta holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University, a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland, and a Master’s degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the George Washington University. He also holds dual Master’s degrees in Aeronautics/Astronautics Systems and Business Management from the MIT School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, respectively.