Mesa Airlines had personal connections to two NASA space shuttle astronauts. The first was Dr. Janet Kavandi. Janet’s husband, John, was a BE-1900 captain for Mesa in the early 1990s when Mesa first became a United Express carrier at Denver Stapleton Airport. He would tell fellow aviators about his wife, who was an engineer in the Power Systems Technology Department of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security, that she had just finished obtaining her commercial pilot’s license and had applied to become an astronaut with NASA. Janet had a PhD in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington. John later left Mesa for a pilot job at Northwest Airlines and after a merger, is currently a pilot with Delta Airlines.
Janet was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in December 1994 and she flew on three space shuttle missions during her astronaut career: STS 91 (Discovery), STS 99 (Endeavor), and STS 104 (Atlantis). She acquired over 33 days in space, traveling over 13.1 million miles and 535 Earth orbits. She became an expert on the robotic arm for both the shuttle orbiter and the space station. She then joined NASA management and eventually became the Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Finally, she was appointed Director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She retired from NASA after 25 years in September 2019. In 2016, she was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Attached is also a photo of Dr. Kavandi giving a tour of an orbiter to President Obama and the first family.