NASA shake-up leaves space program in confusion

Mindy Sparks
July 13, 2019

Gerstenmaier started out as an engineer and eventually became the associate administrator for human exploration and operations in 2004.

Effective suddenly, Bridenstine wrote in a letter to company workers, Ken Bowersox, a five-flight shuttle veteran, space station astronaut and Gerstenmaier's deputy, will take over on an acting basis while Gerstenmaier serves as "special advisor" to NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

The head of NASA's human exploration program was abruptly demoted from his job as the space agency faces a deadline from the Trump administration to send Americans to the moon by 2024. Another high profile NASA employee, Bill Hill, has also been reassigned - from deputy associate administrator of human exploration to another special advisor position. President Donald Trump has asked the space agency to put humans back on the moon before the end of his potential second term in office, but neither the White House nor NASA has won congressional support for the plan.

"In an effort to meet this challenge, I have decided to make leadership changes to the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate".

At the time, NASA's Moon to Mars page still listed 2028 as the target for putting astronauts on the moon.


Gerstenmaier began his career with NASA in 1977 doing aeronautical research.

The two moves are huge personnel changes within NASA's human exploration division coming at a critical time when the agency is trying to sell its ambitious lunar program, called Artemis, to Congress. He was also spearheading the agency's effort to return astronauts to the moon.

Johnson said that amid the challenges that come with the moonshot project, removing experienced leaders at NASA appears to be an ill-guided decision.

Wednesday's shakeups are the latest as NASA aims to transform itself into "a leaner, more accountable and more agile organization", as Pence said in the March speech to the National Space Council.

Going back to the moon is a waste of money, according to the presenter behind the BBC's coverage of the first moon landing 50 years ago.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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