1981 – Graduated from U.S. Military Academy at West
Point, N.Y., with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
1986 – Completed a five-year stint flying helicopters in
Germany as a commissioned officer in the Army.
1986 – Began career as an engineer with various
aerospace and defense industries, including SAIC and
McDonnell Douglas Corp.
1988 – Graduated from Boston University’s Metropolitan
College with master’s degree in business administration.
2007 – Appointed deputy director of the John F.
Kennedy Space Center.
2018 – Inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.
2019 – Awarded the Samuel J. Heyman Service to
America Management Excellence Medal.
2021 – Appointed director of the Kennedy Space Center.
22: SPACE COAST LIVING | SPACECOASTLIVING.COM
Petro and 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman depart the Operations and
Checkout Building as part of NASA’s and the iconic NASCAR race’s 50th anniversary
events in 2008.
The center heads a funded STEM outreach for college
students, and Petro is passionate about providing
opportunities to children in grades K-12. Girls should be
encouraged to explore aptitudes long past middle school
age, she says, noting that they often gain confidence to
explore STEM fields as older teens. Her daughter, Hannah,
for example, chose engineering late in high school before
she enrolled at Auburn.
Petro is naturally inclined to share her love of learning, from
books to her vision of space exploration.
“I’m always listening to a book, always,” she says, and
often while walking her dog. Recently she listened to Jack
London’s, The Call of the Wild, a classic she read as a child
and shared with her grandchildren.
“Oh, my, gosh,” she recalls exclaiming to them. “You’ve got
to read this book.”
As with reading, she invites people to ponder possibilities
— from future space vacations in low orbits to space
exploration as it impacts daily life. Space exploration
requires so many skills beyond engineering, and satellite
data informs myriads of day-to-day operations, she says.
“There’s something for everybody in space and for every
occupation out there. I’m convinced of that.”