Petro oversees nearly 700 facilities and buildings across the Kennedy Space Center’s 144,000 acres. One of the most visible components of the space program is the 525-
foot-high Vehicle Assembly Building, which is used to stack NASA’s largest rockets.
mark a dramatic turnabout from 2011
when the shuttle program ended and the
The presence of companies such as
Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Blue Origin and
WebOne Satellites has boosted the economy,
FALL 2021: 21
especially in local manufacturing of
components for space.
Lynda Weatherman, commission president
and CEO, appreciates the relationship
Petro nurtures with Brevard County’s
“She is an excellent choice to take us to
the next step,” Weatherman says.
Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s vice president
of governmental and external relations,
is excited that NASA is heading back
to the moon.
“There are a lot of changes to come, but
change is life,” he says. “To have Janet, who
certainly knows what she’s doing, is good.”
Petro thrived in the Space Age culture and
tight-knit community of Satellite Beach.
“We were all very little, but it left its
mark on us,” Petro says.
She cherishes her memory of the 1969 lunar
landing. Then 9 years old, she watched
Neil Armstrong step onto the moon and
into space history forever on her family’s
black-and-white screen television.
Her parents inspired her in a life of hard
work, discipline and service. She attended
Surfside Elementary, DeLaura Middle and
Satellite High schools. She participated in
Girl Scouts, band and sports. Veterans Day
parades were fun.
“You didn’t get away with much because
your neighbor was going to go tell your
mom what you had done,” Petro says. “It
was an idyllic place to grow up.”
She learned the importance of teamwork
as the middle of five children and in
softball, a sport she excelled in through
college. In it she learned how to be
resilient and face obstacles.
Petro credits West Point for a leadership
code she applies every day. Long ago, she
took to heart Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s
farewell speech to the academy in his
three words: “duty, honor, country.”
“His speech doesn’t just talk about where
you are today,” she says. “It talks about
where you need to strive to be.”
She advocates for women in science,
math and engineering fields and has seen
the center’s senior leadership increase to
50 percent female over decades.
“Persevere on your dream and don’t allow
anybody to tell you ‘no,’ ” she advises
in a May 2013 NASA video posted on
YouTube. “Have confidence and pursue it,
and you will reach your dream.” >>