From STEM pioneer Mary Jackson to trailblazer Mae C. Jemison, Black women have historically shaped the landscape of space exploration while simultaneously breaking racial and gender barriers. South Carolina native Vanessa E. Wyche is continuing that legacy of excellence. According to the Houston Chronicle, Wyche was recently chosen to serve as the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
The appointment is historic as it marks the first time a Black woman has sat at the helm of a NASA center. For Wyche—a Clemson University alum—her history with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration runs deep. She joined the NASA team over three decades ago after working at the Washington, D.C.-based Food and Drug Administration. Throughout her career at NASA she has served in several high-ranking positions. She was the executive officer in the Office of the NASA Administrator, a flight manager for the Space Shuttle Program, director of the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate and most recently the deputy director at the Johnson Space Center.
Wyche has been a fierce advocate for STEM education and sits on the boards of SpaceCom and Houston Exponential. She is also a member of JSC’s I&I Council and the University of Houston’s C. T. Bauer College of Business Advisory Panel. In her new role, she will oversee the Orion and Gateway programs, the Mission Control Center and the International Space Station. She will supervise the creation and operation of human spacecrafts as well as human spaceflight events.
Wyche is excited to take on the role. “I am incredibly humbled to take on this role at JSC,” she said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “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.”
Her appointment is a step forward towards greater diversity at NASA. According to the agency, 12 percent of its workforce is Black.