Elsa Hennings currently serves at the Chief Engineer for parachutes for the United States Navy. She is also one of two parachute experts requested to consult on NASA programs of national interest, such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars landing parachutes as well as the parachute system for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, designed to safely return astronauts to Earth from the International Space Station, the moon, or Mars. During her 33 year career with the Navy, she has designed parachutes for payloads ranging from tiny micro-munitions to large supersonic targets, and bailout systems for Navy aircrew as well as the Space Shuttle astronauts. She designed the 70 ft. communication attachment tethers used on the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions, and served as a parachute expert on the National Research Council's Roadmap for Planetary Landing. She also chaired the international AIAA Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Technical Committee, and served as an editor for the Journal of Aircraft.
Ms. Hennings has published numerous peer-reviewed papers, given many presentations at technical conferences, and has received 9 patents. She gave the College of Engineering Commencement Address at the University of Missouri in 1998, and has received several awards for her work, including NASA's Silver Achievement Award. In 2015 she was selected by her peers as the first female Naval Air Systems Command Esteemed Fellow, one of only 11 individuals to reach this highest level of recognition among the 6000 engineers and scientists within the organization.