New Director Janet Kavandi Is Logging Firsts At NASA Glenn

Aug 17, 2017

Janet Kavandi is the first director of NASA Glenn who's been in space. She flew three shuttle missions and is the research center's first female director. She'll view her first total eclipse on Monday as part of NASA TV's Live broadcast.
Credit NASA

On Monday, the moon will cross in front of the sun and cast a shadow across the length of the U.S., sweeping east from Oregon all the way to the Carolina coast.

A narrow band between those points will experience a total eclipse, but even Ohio will see about 80 percent of the sun covered by the moon starting around 1 p.m. on Monday.

NASA is gearing up for the big event, NASA Glenn Director Janet Kavandi joins us.

Monday will be a first time many people in the U.S. will witness a total eclipse of the sun,  including NASA Glenn Director Janet Kavandi.  She'll be appearing in the Midwestern portion of NASA TV’s Live broadcast of the eclipse, as she returns to her native Missouri to experience the event.

Totality first touches the West Coast at 10:16 a.m. PDT, and then sweeps eastward across the continent before entirely heading off into the Atlantic by 4:09 p.m. EDT.

In Northeast Ohio the eclipse begins at 1:07 p.m. on Monday and will last around 2 hours 45 minutes with the maximum coverage at around 2:30 p.m.

Kavandi says the eclipse is a great educational opportunity for people to learn more about planetary science.

“This is a wonderful demonstration of orbital mechanics in motion."

A total eclipse demonstrates that the sun and moon are exactly the same size in the sky, a wondrous quirk in the geometry of the Earth's orbit and a surefire sign that this is a very special planet indeed.
Credit NASA

The eclipse provides an opportunity for NASA scientists to study the sun’s corona, the veil of charged particles that surround the solar disk.

Even today, Kavandi says the solar eclipse provides the best opportunity to study the corona "because we’re blocking the intense visual radiation from the sun. Everything that is so powerful that comes out of that burning ball of hydrogen blocks everything else’s view.”

She says NASA helio-physicists and researchers from around the world will converge on the path of the eclipse to conduct these coronal observations during the few minutes of totality on Monday.

It may seem like a matter of course that Earth’s moon would exactly fit over the sun’s disk during an eclipse, but the fact that the geometry works the way it does is nothing short of a miracle.

'I just do my best and don't think about gender.'

“The distance that moon is from the Earth, and it’s diameter, it is perfectly sized to block out the sun on these rare occasions where we get to see it,” says Kavandi.

NASA Glenn director Janet Kavandi flew on three shuttle missions. She's the first director of the research center to have been in space.
Credit NASA

Kavandi’s appointment in 2016 as director of NASA Glenn Research Center marked a couple of firsts:  she’s the first director who’s actually been in space, as a member of three shuttle missions, and she’s the first female director.

“To me, it [being a woman] doesn’t make a difference,” says Kavandi.  “Maybe to other people it might be a unique thing to talk about, but I don’t even think about things like that at all,” she says.

“I just do my best and don’t think about gender.”

With respect to having flown in space, Kavandi says her experiences at other NASA centers has added to her leadership training over the years.

“Whether it was training for space flight at the Johnson Space Center, or launching into space from the Kennedy Space Center, all of those experiences accumulate to make you who you are,” says Kavandi.

“As a leader I try to bring those lessons to the Glenn Research Center as well,” she says.