Homegrown director takes over the
helm of rejuvenated JFK space center
ment team that won the 2019 Samuel J.
Heyman Service to America Management
Excellence Medal. She received a President’s
Distinguished Executive Award
and the astronaut-selected Silver Snoopy
Award for outstanding performance contributing
to flight safety and mission success.
In 2018, she was inducted into the
Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, chosen by
Gov. Rick Scott.
She helped transform the center’s
facility to a multiuser spaceport with
a wide variety of commercial and
government partners able to use it. She
coordinated efforts with the Federal
Aviation Administration and Air Force
to streamline government processes and
support commercial use.
ENGINEERING A CAREER
Petro graduated from the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point, with a bachelor’s
degree in engineering in 1981. Her
class was the second to accept women.
As a commissioned officer, she flew
Army helicopters in Germany for five
years. Her work as an engineer started
at Science Applications International
Corp. and McDonnell Douglas Aerospace
Corp. She holds a master’s in business
administration from Boston University’s
Space exploration is part of her DNA,
she says. Her family moved from Detroit,
where Petro's father worked at Chrysler
Corp., to Satellite Beach in 1962. He
worked on the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo
and space shuttle programs as an
engineer and, eventually, manager. She
and her four siblings were inspired by
America's quests in space.
Now with her family close by, Petro
resides at Indian Harbour Beach. Her
son lives around the corner from her, her
daughter is a senior majoring in engineering
at Auburn University, and she enjoys
her two grandchildren. Three of her
siblings live on or near the Space Coast,
and some have engineering careers. Her
love of space found an even larger family
at the Kennedy Space Center.
“What I love about the job is that there’s
always something really significant
and impactful going on,” Petro says,
FALL 2021: 1 7
By Lucinda Coulter