Aerospace engineering alumna selected as 2021 NASA flight director


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since second grade, Chloe Mehring dreamed of space. She went to Space Camp in junior high, researched NASA careers in high school and studied aerospace engineering in college to follow her aspirations.

Now, as a newly selected flight director in NASA’s class of 2021, Mehring, a 2008 Penn State aerospace engineering alumna, will lead human spaceflight missions to the International Space Station — and potentially the Moon.

“Flight directors are decisionmakers, leaders and mentors at the forefront of human exploration in space,” Mehring said. “Being a leader for missions like returning to the Moon or, one day, going to Mars is a real dream come true.”

After a training program, Mehring will be prepared to oversee teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts and support personnel around the world, according to a NASA press release. Mehring’s role will place her among 100 other flight directors in NASA’s history, including Gene Kranz, who directed the Apollo 11 first lunar landing mission and the safe recovery of the Apollo 13 crew when the mission went awry, and several Penn State alumni.

“We are proud that Chloe is joining a substantial line of flight directors from Penn State. As an undergraduate here, she stood out and made an impact that was recognized University-wide with the Commission for Women’s Achieving Women Award,” said George Lesieutre, associate dean for research and graduate programs and professor of aerospace engineering and acoustics. “It’s exciting to see Chloe’s talent, enthusiasm and commitment continue to make a difference today in NASA’s space program.”

Mehring began working at NASA in 2008 and has since supported a number of flights, including 11 space shuttle missions. She was a propulsion support officer for the first test flight of the Orion spacecraft, planned for use in the Artemis lunar missions. As a lead propulsion officer for the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, she supported three test flights. She worked as the ascent and entry propulsion officer for the Boeing Starliner spacecraft’s first test flight and currently serves as a backup lead for Starliner.

“Chloe’s career trajectory is an inspiration, and its foundation was evident in her ambitious undergraduate journey,” said Cheryl Knobloch, director of the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) at Penn State. “She demonstrated a passion for engineering in multiple WEP outreach and leadership roles and continues to be active as an alumna. We are so proud of her magnificent achievement in engineering leadership.”

As a Penn State undergraduate engineering student, Mehring actively participated in WEP as well as co-ops and internship positions with NASA. She advises current aerospace engineering students to take advantage of such career opportunities — and to set healthy boundaries and goals for academic success.

“At NASA, work-life balance is a motto we live by and aerospace engineering students should do the same,” Mehring said. “If you take care of yourself and manage your time effectively, the effort you put into your schoolwork will carry over to your future career.”


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