Space Out
UW grad Janet Kavandi soared into space on the space shuttle three times—but now she oversees the end of the NASA program

Janet Kavandi knew when she was young that she had the “right stuff.” As a child on her parents’ farm in Missouri, she would sit on her dad’s lap, look at the stars and watch NASA’s flights in the 1960s. “I knew I had the adventure in me to go to new places and try new things,” she says. “I had the characteristics internally to leave the planet but I needed the technical qualifications.”

Kavandi earned some of those qualifications at the University of Washington, where she earned her doctorate in analytical chemistry in 1990. During that time, she also worked as an engineer for Boeing, but NASA was always on her mind. Selected to be in the 15th class of NASA astronauts in 1994, Kavandi has logged more than 13.1 million miles in space on three shuttle missions. While Kavandi does not go out of her way to court risk, she does like the adventure of blasting off into space.

“I always drive the speed limit, I wear my seatbelt and I change the battery in the smoke detector. But I really enjoy the front seat of a roller coaster. Launching into space is the best roller coaster ride ever,” she says.

For Kavandi and her colleagues, it’s a bittersweet time to be an American astronaut. NASA is winding down the shuttle program in June and the Obama administration canceled the two programs that were slated to replace the shuttle, humanity’s first reusable spacecraft. Kavandi, who has been with NASA since 1994, was put in charge of the phase-out of the shuttle program.

Commercial space flights are the wave of the future and NASA has already awarded four companies $270 million to continue development of commercial rockets and spacecrafts. From now on, NASA astronauts will compete for slots on the International Space Station by flying on a Russian Soyuz capsule that will launch from Kazakstan.

Kavandi’s current NASA job as director of flight crew operations will be no less important as the future unfolds. It will take two years and six months for astronauts in training to learn Russian and the Soyuz and space station systems and Kavandi’s work will help prepare them for this future.

Part of Kavandi’s focus has been to support the International Space Station. She was a mission specialist on the ninth and final Shuttle-Mir docking mission in 1998. Kavandi also served on the Radar Topography Mission in 2000, which mapped more than 47 million miles of the Earth’s land surface.

She says viewing the Earth from space gave her a different perspective. “It’s hard to comprehend bad things happening on such a beautiful planet when you’re looking down on it. You can see the Middle East and Africa all at once. It’s hard to understand why people can’t find peace when you’re in space away from politics,” she says.

While Earth may be her planet, the Puget Sound region is the part of the planet Kavandi loves best. She and her husband, an airline pilot, and two children, come to the area regularly to hike and enjoy the region’s water and mountains.
—Julie Garner is a contributing editor to Columns

Huskies who played key role in shuttle program

As director of flight crew operations, NASA astronaut Janet Kavandi, ’90, is presiding over the end of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Kavandi is a veteran of three shuttle flights. Here is a list of other people from the UW family who have been involved with the space shuttle program.

JOSEPH P. ALLEN, Research Associate, UW Nuclear Physics Lab (early 1960s)
Mission specialist, Columbia (first Shuttle flight), November 1982; Mission specialist, Discovery, November 1984.

MICHAEL P. ANDERSON, B.S., ’81, Physics/Astronomy
Mission specialist, Endeavour (eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission), January 1998; Mission specialist, Columbia, February 2003.

DOMINIC “TONY” ANTONELLI, M.S.,’02, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
Pilot, Discovery, March 2009; Pilot, Atlantis (delivering equipment to International Space Station), May 2010.

MICHAEL BARRATT, B.S., ’81, Zoology
Mission specialist, final mission of Discovery, February 2011.

YVONNE CAGLE, M.D., ’85, Medicine
A certified flight surgeon, Cagle designed the medical protocols for select NASA remote duty operations.

RON DITTEMORE, B.S., ’74, M.S., ’75, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
He worked for NASA for 26 years and was manager of the Shuttle Program from 1999- 2003. He served as flight director for 11 Shuttle missions.

BONNIE DUNBAR, B.S., ’71, M.S. ’75, Ceramic Engineering
Five missions: Challenger, October 1985; Columbia, January 1990; Columbia, June 1992; Atlantis (first Space Shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station, Mir) June 1995; Endeavour, January 1998. She is now Executive Director of Wings Over Washington.

JIM DUTTON JR., M.S., ’94, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
Mission specialist, Discovery, April 2010 (resupplying the International Space Station).

JOHN M. FABIAN, Ph.D., ’74, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
Mission specialist, second mission of the Challenger, June 1983; Mission specialist, Discovery, September 1993 (as part of an international crew deploying communications satellites).

GREGORY C. JOHNSON, B.S., ’77, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering
Pilot, Atlantis, May 2009 (final Hubble Telescope servicing mission).

GEORGE D. (“PINKY”) NELSON, M.S.,’74, Ph.D., ’78, Astronomy
Mission specialist, Challenger, April 1984; Mission specialist, Columbia, January 1986; Mission specialist, Discovery, September 1988 (first flight after Challenger accident)

DAFYDD “DAVE” RHYS WILLIAMS, Postgraduate research, Friday Harbor Labs
Mission specialist, Columbia, April 1998; Mission specialist, Endeavour, 2007.

One Response to Space Out

  1. mohammd kavandi says:

    idont speak english Im iranian and moslem you do speak farsi agrmmkn hi Iwant to know is why Ichoose to write your own. good luok.

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