Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • ROY SHAVER: Astronaut's adventurous spirit evident at early age

  • On this date in 2000, Janet Kavandi, an astronaut with ties to this area, was on her second space flight as part of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.
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  • On this date in 2000, Janet Kavandi, an astronaut with ties to this area, was on her second space flight as part of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. The purpose of this ambitious project was to map 47 million miles of the earth's land features from the Arctic to the Antarctic to provide data for highly accurate three-dimensional topographic maps.
    Her parents were Bill and Ruth Sellers of Cassville. Bill was a highly-regarded sanitarian with the Barry County Health Department. While I was serving as chairman of the Barry County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Bill took on the thankless job of fund raiser. He credited Red Cross packages with saving his life in World War II. Janet started school while I was superintendent at Cassville. I recall an incident involving her as a first grader.
    The school was undergoing a building program. Part of the project was to widen the street and to provide new curbing next to the elementary building. This left a 6-foot wide strip dug up between the street and the school. About five minutes before school was to dismiss one afternoon, there was a tremendous thundershower which filled the unpaved strip with water. I decided to have the dismissal bell held. Now with parents pouring into the street from three directions to pick up their children and with traffic at a standstill, a world class traffic jam developed in the rain. It took some time to sort out the mess. In the absence of her parents (probably hung up in the traffic snarl) this future astronaut demonstrated her adventurous spirit by walking home. Had I let school dismiss as scheduled, it couldn't have been worse.
    In the fall of 1967, her parents flew to McAlester, Okla., in their small plane for a prison rodeo. Upon their return flight, the second plane on the trip flew up under the Sellers' plane, clipping the tail section. Kavandi's parents were killed in the resulting crash. Their young daughter moved to Carthage, where she was raised by an aunt. She went on to graduate as valedictorian of her class in 1977 and graduated magna cum laude from MSSC with a degree in chemistry. She earned a masters' degree in chemistry from the University of Missouri. Following graduation, she accepted a position with Eagle-Picher in Joplin. Later, she worked with Boeing and earned her doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington.
    Kavandi was selected as an astronaut in 1994. Her first space flight was in 1998. Her final flight following the mapping mission was in 2001. In her three flights, she logged 33 days in space, traveling 131 million miles in 535 earth orbits. She currently serves as director of flight crew operations at the NASA / Johnson Space Center in Houston.
    Roy Shaver writes a weekly column for the Daily News.
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