Wendy Pennington

As a freshman in high school, I enrolled in a mechanical drafting class. I loved the drawing and design aspect. My teachers saw that I had a natural thirst for engineering. They encouraged me to continue in the technical field and to pursue a degree in engineering, and so my ambitions of becoming a NASA engineer began. Today, I work as an engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in the Flight Projects Directorate, where I specialize in project management. I love working at NASA and always have.

In the 30 years I have been with NASA, I not only fulfilled that ambition but have contributed significantly to the future of aeronautics and space exploration as well as helped inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists. The whole environment at NASA has pushed me toward my goals. Everyone is so intellectual, innovative, and helpful. There are so many opportunities. People I work with every day inspire me and push me to try new things and ideas.

I have done everything from participating as a test subject in studies for models of shuttle escape vehicles to machining hardware for space experiments and managing large flight hardware projects. At one point in my career, I worked in Langley’s Full-Scale Tunnel, which was used to test full-size aircraft mounted to a system that measured air loads on airplanes. The tunnel, put into service in 1930, tested everything from biplanes to space vehicles.

In 2006, I connected with NASA’s Space Exploration Program and, until recently, worked with engineers all over the country to develop the Ares IX and Pad Abort Flight test hardware. These test flights are part of a larger exploration program to develop NASA’s next-generation space vehicles and advanced technology for exploration. Two of my proudest moments were witnessing the launches of those two flight-test rockets at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It’s an awesome privilege to be part of such a diverse workforce integrating complex components for flight test.

I really want to be part of the next generation of technology we develop for space exploration and Earth science. I have never ceased to be thoroughly excited about what I do in my job. Along the way, I have learned from NASA’s earlier generation, the Apollo engineers, technicians, and astronauts. They’re very inspiring. You kind of stand in awe of them. They were such pioneers – so brave – and we have all benefited from their experience.

Biography

Wendy Pennington discovered her natural passion and inclination for engineering while enrolled in a mechanical drafting class in high school. While her love of drawing and design provided an architectural roadmap for her future, it was the encouragement and guidance of the teachers who recognized this young woman’s special talents that put her life on a trajectory that would land her at NASA, where she continues to be inspired and challenged to reach even greater heights. Ms. Pennington currently works on future satellite instruments that measure and collect data on carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere to aid in the understanding of environmental impacts. During her years at NASA, she has also supported the development and delivery of flight hardware and ground support equipment for the Orion Pad Abort Launch Test. Ms. Pennington recognizes that each generation inspires the next, citing the Apollo engineers, technicians, and astronauts as a tremendous influence and source of information for her. She is motivated to be part of future technology, and in doing her part to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists. Ms. Pennington holds a BS in mechanical engineering from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.