NASA head of human spaceflight resigns ahead of crewed SpaceX flight

Bridenstine and Loverro

NASA human spaceflight head Loverro leaves agency

The head of NASA's human spaceflight office resigned Tuesday as astronauts readied for their first launch in a decade from American soil.

For almost nine years, NASA has had to rely on the Russians to get American astronauts to the space station.

Before joining NASA, Loverro had a long career in national security space.

Loverro gave no indication as to what the mistake he mentioned may be. "My leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we have accomplished together".

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A longtime Pentagon official, Loverro was seen as a calm and immensely capable executive that not only would help the agency restore human spaceflight from USA soil as part of NASA's Commercial Crew program, but also would push NASA to meet a White House mandate to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. The program experienced cost overruns and delays. The first of which is scheduled for Thursday, May 21. "His leadership of HEO has moved us closer to accomplishing our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024", NASA said in a statement.

Critics have warned that Trump appears to be pushing hard for NASA to accelerate Artemis from its original timeline of 2028-which could have disastrous consequences if it results in shoddy work-just to claim a second Moon landing as part of his legacy. Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, NASA announced the three winning corporate teams that will develop lunar landers for astronauts.

Loverro was scheduled to chair a flight readiness review for the SpaceX Demo-2 commercial crew mission May 21, one of the final milestones before the mission's scheduled May 27 launch. "I want to be clear that the fact that I am taking this step has nothing to do with your performance as an organization nor with the plans we have placed in motion to fulfill our mission", Loverro wrote.

No crewed mission has launched to orbit from the United States since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011. The Crew Dragon would automatically dock moments later to the global docking adapter attached to the forward end of Harmony. A NASA spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about the reasons for Loverro's resignation, but industry sources say that Loverro and Bridenstine disagreed over aspects of the exploration program.

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According to POLITICO, Loverro's resignation prompted concerns among lawmakers, especially since it came just days before a significant mission. However, there were rumors that it was due to "a pretext for Bridenstine" to remove Loverro. In July 2019, William Gerstenmaier was demoted from his position as NASA's associate administrator from human exploration.

Former astronaut Ken Bowersox is to replace Loverro in an acting capacity.

Next week will mark the beginning of a new era in human spaceflight with the launch of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station.

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