Wendy Whiting
Mission Director for the Live from the Stratosphere flights

My current job is Assistant Branch Chief, Airborne Astronomy Missions Branch. I am responsible for various management tasks, including planning for deployments, leading technical projects, working out operations schedules, etc. I also fly on KAO research flights as a Mission Director.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Right after college I worked for Yale University, assisting in the compilation and editing of the Bright Star Catalog. From there, I went to work for the Air Force Geophysics Lab, as a data analyst for their Airborne Ionospheric Observatory, a KC-135 aircraft equipped with atmospheric sensors. This got me hooked on airplanes. My next job was with ITT as a programmer/analyst. By this time I had heard about the KAO and had decided I wanted to work at Ames on the KAO project. After a couple years of establishing contacts here, sending resumes, etc., I was finally hired by one of the KAO support services contractors as a Computer Operator. Then in 1990 I was hired by NASA as a Mission Director. In March of 1993, I became the Assistant Branch Chief.

The most exciting KAO flight I've ever been on was the one on which we discovered the atmosphere on Pluto. This was an occultation flight, and as we watched the signal fade out over about 20 seconds, we knew that there was an atmosphere. There was a lot of excitement in the cabin, as you can imagine! Jim Elliot, the Pricipal Investigator on the flight, remarked, "Well now I can write a book called 'Pluto, Planet With an Atmosphere'".

Outside of work, I enjoy sports, especially running and biking. I am an avid reader and co-founder of a local book group which is going strong after seven years and over 100 books read and discussed! I also love music and play the piano.

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