NASA Herstory

Vanessa Wyche Named New Director of Johnson Space Center

The NASA veteran makes history as the first Black woman to lead one of the space agency’s centers.

By Emma Schkloven July 13, 2021

Image: courtesy NASA

Houston, we have a director. (Sorry, ya'll, we couldn’t resist). Last month, longtime NASA veteran Vanessa Wyche made history when she was named director of Johnson Space Center, becoming the first Black woman ever to lead one of the space agency’s centers.

“I’m humbled and honored to be chosen to lead the more than 10,000 employees at Johnson Space Center, who work each day to enhance scientific and technological knowledge via space exploration to benefit all of humankind,” Wyche said in a statement. “I look forward to working with everyone as we push forward to the Moon and inspire a new generation of explorers to reach for the stars.”

A native of South Carolina, Wyche has worked at NASA for 31 years, serving as JSC’s assistant center director and director of the its Exploration Integration and Science Directorate. She also served as a flight manager for multiple missions with the now-retired space shuttle program—not to mention she’d been serving as acting director since May, following three years as deputy director. Her three decades of service haven’t gone unnoticed either; Wyche has received many prestigious accolades over the years, including two NASA Outstanding Leadership medals, two NASA Achievement medals, and a “Woman at NASA” award.

“Vanessa is a tenacious leader who has broken down barriers throughout her career,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy noted in her statement. “Vanessa’s more than three decades at NASA and program experience in almost all of the human spaceflight programs at Johnson is an incredible asset to the agency.”

Though only a couple weeks into the job, Wyche’s already made some moves in her new role leading the center central to NASA’s human spaceflight missions—something we’d expect with her prior experience at the helm of JSC. On July 12, she named Steve Koerner, who had served as the director of the center’s director Flight Operations Directorate since 2019, her deputy director.

“It’s hard to imagine a more exciting time to be at NASA, and I am honored to have the opportunity to assume this new role,” Koerner said of his new role. “I hope to provide value to the agency, to the center, and to Vanessa.”

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