Top NASA Leaders Ousted As Agency Pushes Toward 2024 Moon Landing

Apollo Lunar Television Camera as it was mounted on the side of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module when it telecasted Armstrong’s ‘One small step

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Bill Gerstenmaier, who was leading the efforts to return humans to the lunar surface, has been with Nasa since 1977 and head of the human exploration office for 14 years.

William Gerstenmaier, a NASA veteran, has been demoted.

The widely-respected Gerstenmaier is a NASA veteran who joined the agency in 1977, rising to become one of its top managers, overseeing the space shuttle program and United States operations on the International Space Station before becoming head of HEO.

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In an email sent to NASA employees obtained by WMFE, Bridenstine said the move is meant to help meet the challenge of landing humans on the moon by 2024, a deadline set by the Trump administration.

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

Gerstenmeir, or "Gerst" as he is called by peers, was known as a cautious and methodical leader who advocated for a full test of the Space Launch System, NASA's next moon rocket, when other leaders called for skipping the test to meet the deadline.

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The American plan to return humans to the moon, including the first woman, is beset with delays and cost overruns, according to an official audit released last month.

He placed Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut and vice president of astronaut safety and mission assurance for Elon Musk's SpaceX, as acting associate administrator for the human exploration wing. Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of human exploration, has also been reassigned as a special adviser to Steve Jurczyk, NASA's associate administrator. He was hired after Pence's remarks to lead the agency's structure changes.

"What we need now is urgency", Pence said during a speech to a crowd at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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