Part 1 of 2: Carthage native Janet Kavandi's 24-year career at NASA has been a steady climb up the ladder, from astronaut and veteran of three space-flights, to administrative positions and her current job as director of one of the agency's four major research centers.
Editor's Note: This is the first of two stories talking about Carthage native Janet Kavandi and the latest in her career with NASA, in light of the news that she was being considered for the agency's No. 2 position. President Donald Trump announced on July 10 the nomination of James Morhard to the post. This story talks about the discussion prior to Trump's announcement. In the next story, she talks about the work being done at the Glenn Research Center and how it impacts everyone, including Carthage residents.
Carthage native Janet Kavandi's 24-year career at NASA has been a steady climb up the ladder, from astronaut and veteran of three space-flights, to administrative positions and her current job as director of one of the agency's four major research centers.
Recent news reports say current NASA Administrator James Bridenstine was endorsing Kavandi for another step up, to the No. 2 post of Deputy Administrator of the Space Agency.
The website Spacenews.com broke a story on June 12 saying Bridenstine's first comments naming a specific person for the job named Kavandi.
“That’s the kind of person at this juncture, given how important everything is right now, that we need as our deputy, and I’m advocating for her,” Bridenstine said in the spacenews.com article.
On June 29, the website thehill.com published an opinion piece that started out saying: “The White House has not yet filled the key position of NASA’s deputy administrator — but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has his sight on an incredibly qualified candidate: Janet Kavandi.”
Kavandi spoke to The Carthage Press on July 3, prior to President Donald Trump's announcement on July 10 that he was nominating former Senate Seargent-at-Arms James Morhard to be NASA Deputy Administrator.
She said it was an honor to be considered, but she couldn't say much more than that because only the President of the United States can nominate someone for that position.
“I'm not nominated and he can't nominate me,” Kavandi said. “That's really all it is is just a statement that he thinks I'd be a good deputy for him, so it is an honor, but that's as far as it's gone, so we don't know where that will progress, if at all. That's just kind of where it is.”
Kavandi is currently the director of the sprawling John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to her online biography, in this position, she is responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the activities required in accomplishing the missions assigned to the center.
The Glenn Research Center is engaged in research, technology, and systems development in support of the nation’s space propulsion, space power, space communications, aeronautical propulsion, microgravity sciences, and materials development programs.
The Glenn staff consists of more than 3,200 civil service and support contractor employees and has an annual budget of approximately $625 million. Prior to accepting the director’s position, Kavandi served as Glenn’s Deputy Director.
Kavandi told The Carthage Press that her current position neatly combines much of the work and many of her interests she's held throughout her career.
“I still get to do my space stuff, which is good, but I also get to do some of my chemistry,” Kavandi said. “My PhD dissertation was on aeronautics projects, so having some of the aero background has been very helpful, plus having a degree in chemistry has helped with the materials research that's done here and the power research. The energy storage, battery stuff is something I worked on at Eagle Picher there in Joplin for years. So everything I think I've worked on throughout my career either in energy storage, chemistry background, the crew office, and aeronautics and space, it's all come together and helped me do this job here.”
Kavandi was inducted into the Hall of Carthage Heroes in 2015 and her biography is on the wall of the Fair Acres Family Y.
According to that biography, Janet Kavandi was born July 17, 1959, in Springfield Missouri. She lost her parents, William and Ruth Sellers, in an airplane accident in 1967 and was taken in by her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Ed England of Carthage. She graduated from Carthage High school in 1977 and was class valedictorian. Janet graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in chemistry from Missouri Southern State University in 1980, then obtained a Master of Science Degree in Chemistry from Missouri University of Science and Technology in 1982, and then went to work for Eagle-Picher in Joplin, using her chemistry degree to assist in new battery development for defense applications.
In 1984, Janet took a position as an engineer in the Power Technology Department of Boeing Aerospace Company in Seattle. She was the lead engineer of secondary power for the Short Range Attack Missile II and the principal technical staff representative involved in the design and development of thermal batteries for Sea Lance and the Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile. In 1986, she was accepted into graduate school at the University of Washington – Seattle, and received her doctorate in analytical chemistry in 1990. She holds two patents on pressure indicating paints, the subject of her doctoral dissertation.
In late 1994 she was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA and reported to Johnson Space Center in March, 1995. After a year of training, she was assigned to the Payloads and Habitability Branch where she supported payload integration for the International Space Station. She served as a mission specialist astronaut on STS-91, the final Shuttle/Mir partnership mission. Later she worked as a spacecraft communicator in NASA’s Mission Control Center. Her second mission was aboard STS-99, which was the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission that mapped more than 47 million miles of Earth’s land surface to provide data for a highly accurate three-dimensional topographical map. In 2001, she served aboard STS-104, whose mission was to add the airlock to the International Space Station. In 2005 she accepted the post of Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office, and in 2008 she became Deputy Director, and then Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson Space Center, responsible for the Astronaut Corps and NASA flight operations at Ellington Field. In March 2015, she was named Deputy Director of the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dr. Kavandi has received numerous awards throughout her career, starting with the National Honor Society in 1977 and the Presidential scholarship to MSSU in 1980. In 1991 Boeing Missile Systems awarded her certificates for Team Excellence and Performance Excellence. In 1996 she was named Outstanding Alumnus at MSSU. During her time at NASA, she has been awarded three Space Flight Medals for shuttle flights STS-91, STS-99 and STS-104, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals, and the prestigious Presidential Rank Award.
Dr. Kavandi has logged more than 33 days in space and has traveled more than 13.1 million miles in 535 Earth orbits. She is married to John Kavandi and they have two children.