CASSVILLE, Mo.– Dr. Janet Kavandi has come a long way from the small cattle ranch she grew up on in southwest Missouri’s Cassville. In fact, more than 13 million miles. Kavandi, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, is the 97th person to be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. She joins a collection of famous astronauts like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the prestigious hall.
Kavandi was a member of NASA’s 15th class of astronaut candidates, selected in 1994. Her first mission to space was on the shuttle Discovery in 1998. She has logged more than 33 days in space, traveling more than 13.1 million miles in 535 Earth orbits.
Inside the space shuttle Atlantis attraction at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last month, Kavandi and former NASA astronaut Jim Buchli were selected by a panel of Hall of Fame astronauts, former NASA officials, historians and journalists. She considers her induction one of the greatest honors of her life.
“This is the cherry on top,” she says.
Kavandi said she cherished the childhood moments she shared with her dad in Cassville and the gifts he gave her – doctor kits instead of dolls.
“We often sat under the night sky identifying constellations and marveling at the Milky Way, which we could see in the country in Missouri. We would watch points of light lighting along their stationary counterparts and we wondered who was up there,” she said.
Kavandi says her amazing family at home and work have been the key to everything.
“It’s not easy to watch your spouse, or your parent or your sister blast off the Earth on a rocket in a trail of smoke and fire. We, the lucky few here, got to be on the fun side of things. We got the shaking and the rolling and we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the planet once we reached the orbit,” she says. “How unnerving, however, it was for those standing on the rooftops. It’s the families that really deserve the medals. We had the fun part and they had the really hard part.”
Kavandi attended Missouri Southern State University in Joplin and Missouri S&T in Rolla. She worked for EaglePicher Technologies in Joplin and later developed energy storage devices for spacecraft at Boeing.
Kavandi currently serves as the director of NASA’s esteemed Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio overseeing about 3,000 workers doing cutting-edge research.