Ebony reports that a black woman has taken one of the most essential roles in NASA for the first time in history. Vanessa Wyche, 54, is now the deputy director of Houston’s Johnson Space Center, making her the second-in-command as a crucial location for the country’s space program. Wyche is more than a great fit for the job, having almost 30 years of experience at NASA. In her new role, she will command a position that had a budget of $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 and employs about 10,000 civil service and contractor employees.
For those curious about the exact nature of Wyche’s role, she will be working right alongside Mark Geyer, the center’s director, in helping to run one of the largest NASA facilities, as well as where human flight training and research take place. “I am incredibly humbled to take on this role at JSC, and also excited to assist Mark with leading the home of human spaceflight,” Wyche said in a statement Wednesday of her appointment as center deputy director.
“I look forward to working with the talented employees at JSC as we work toward our mission of taking humans farther into the solar system.” Wyche first started at Johnson Space Center in 1989 as a project engineer for space life sciences. She has held several important roles during her time there, most recently director of the center’s Exploration Integration and Science Directorate, where she provided “guidance and direction” to allow for human and robotic exploration of deep space. Prior to this, she graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s in engineering and, later, a master’s in bioengineering. She also had worked for the FDA in Washington, D.C.
“Vanessa has a deep background at JSC with significant program experience in almost all of the human spaceflight programs that have been hosted here,” Geyer said. “She is respected at NASA, has built agency-wide relationships throughout her nearly three-decade career and will serve JSC well as we continue to lead human space exploration in Houston.” Geyer himself has only had the position for only three months, replacing veteran astronaut Ellen Ochoa. Ochoa had held the position for five years herself before retiring in May.