Published: Sat, July 13, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA shake-up in new race to the moon

NASA shake-up in new race to the moon

"In an effort to meet this challenge, I have chose to make leadership changes to the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate". The move signifies something of a demotion for Gerstenmaier at the agency.

Vice President Mike Pence announced in March that the Trump administration wished to speed up NASA's plans to reach the moon - launching the mission in 2024, instead of 2028.

In an email to employees obtained by The Washington Post, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Gerstenmaier would become a special assistant to Jim Morhard, the deputy administrator.

Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut who had served as the deputy associate administrator for the human exploration office, will take over for Gerstenmaier, according to Bridenstine's email.

Gerstenmaier was ousted from his role hours after he testified before Congress on the future of the International Space Station and plans for low-Earth orbit. "We are designing an open, durable, reusable architecture that will support deep space exploration for decades to come".

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Rep. Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, chairwoman of the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, also said she was "concerned about the impacts that such abrupt leadership changes in our nation's human space flight programs could have" at a time when they're testing the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft that will help the crew get to the moon.

"400,000 people in 2,500 companies made five and a half million bits that went together to make the rocket, each one of which had to be absolutely flawless and ideal and wouldn't break down, and that kind of management is something that Nasa invented and I think has changed the world more than anything else", he said. "Given NASA is no longer pursuing the new mission directorate, Mark has opted to pursue other opportunities", Bridenstine said in a memo to employees at the time.

"NASA has always been fortunate to have great talent that has served our country well", Bridenstine wrote.

To meet the administration's goal, NASA is relying on the huge Boeing-built SLS rocket that will be even more powerful than the legendary Saturn 5 boosters that propelled the Apollo astronauts to the moon. "As we work to fill these key positions in the HEO, we'll keep mission targeted, knowing that exploration will go ahead".

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