NASA’s human space flight chief resigns abruptly, citing “mistake”

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NASA's human space flight chief resigns abruptly, citing

His departure was effective on Monday.

The incident in question was related to the Artemis Program, a source familiar with the matter told CNN Business.
The Artemis Program seeks to bring astronauts back to the moon by 2024, which was announced by the Trump administration last year and has been criticized as unrealistic. The source who knows the reason for Loverro’s departure said that the issue was centered on the contracts awarded at the beginning of the year for the development of lunar landers or vehicles that can transport astronauts to the surface of the moon.

Reached by phone on Tuesday evening, Loverro declined to comment on the reason for his departure.

Loverro began playing his role as head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs in December, replacing William Gerstenmaier, who has held the role for more than a decade. In his nearly 700-word note, Loverro only told NASA workers that leaders are “called to take risks” and added that “I took such a risk earlier in the year because I felt it was necessary to take our mission”.

“Now, over time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which only I have to bear the consequences,” wrote Loverro. “And therefore, it is with a very, very heavy heart that I am writing to you today to let you know that I quit NASA starting May 18, 2020.”

NASA Inspector General’s office announced an audit of the agency’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis program in March, although it is unclear whether this review was related to Loverro’s departure. It is also unclear what role Loverro played in the selection process.
The source familiar with the matter, who asked to remain anonymous because the space agency has not yet disclosed the details, told CNN Business that the incident in question was not related to NASA’s historic milestone next week when SpaceX, NASA’s partner in the Commercial Crew Program, launches two astronauts to the International Space Station. That mission will mark for the first time since 2011 that humans launched into orbit from American soil and Loverro was expected to chair a technical review meeting on Thursday, before launching on May 27. Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator, will take on the role of Loverro in that meeting, according to NASA.

Ken Bowersox, NASA’s deputy chief executive officer for exploration and human operations, will become NASA’s interim chief of human space flight.

Loverro’s exit immediately raised a few eyebrows on Capitol Hill.

Texas Democrat MP Eddie Bernice Johnson, who chairs the space and science committee of the House, said in a statement that she was “shocked” by the news.

“I am confident that NASA administrator Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made whether or not to delay the launch attempt,” said Johnson. “Besides that, Loverro’s resignation is another worrying indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is not yet stable. I am looking forward to clarifying NASA on the reasons for the staff’s latest action.”

Kendra Horn, an Oklahoma Democrat who chairs a House subcommittee on space, said in a Tweet Tuesday is “deeply concerned about these sudden resignations, particularly eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on American soil in nearly a decade.”

The moment of Loverro’s departure was tied to when Jurczyk, the associate administrator, made a recommendation to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, the source said. It was not related to the launch of Crew Dragon next week, the source added.

Jurczyk was the procurement official for the procurement of Artemis’ lunar lander contract, according to public documents.

In Loverro’s announcement appointment in October, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine called Loverro “a respected strategic leader in civilian and defense programs” which “will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical moment in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both commercial team than for Artemis “.

An agency-level email sent on Tuesday said Loverro “started running” after his appointment in 2019 and had made “significant progress over his time at NASA.”

“His leadership of [NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations] brought us closer to our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024, “said the email. He said his resignation was immediately effective, although they did not give details of the reason for his release. .

A NASA spokesman declined to comment.

Loverro told CNN Business that he is “100% sure” that the leadership will be able to carry out the SpaceX mission. He added that he believes NASA’s ambitious human space flight targets are “doable”. “But,” he added, “it will take risks to get us there, and I hope people who put me in my shoes will continue to take risks.”

SpaceX’s launch next week will mark the space agency’s highest-profile mission since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. SpaceX, which has a multi-billion dollar contract under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program , he worked for the better part of a decade to prepare his Dragon spacecraft for manned flights to the International Space Station. Since the Shuttle retired, NASA has had to rely on Russia for travel to the ISS.

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