NASA’s human spaceflight chief ousted just before big launch

“Throughout my long government career of over four and a half decades I have always found it to be true that we are sometimes, as leaders, called on to take risks,” Loverro wrote. “The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly. I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences. “

“My leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we accomplished together,” he continued.

Reached by phone, Loverro declined to offer specifics about his “mistake,” but said his departure is not due to a disagreement with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine or any safety concerns about next week’s launch.

Bridenstine praised Loverro’s work at the agency, saying in a note to staff that he “has moved us closer to accomplishing our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.”

On May 27, NASA plans to send two astronauts to the International Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011 that astronauts will launch from U.S. soil.

It is unclear what, if any, impact the shake up will have on the planned mission. NASA did not weigh in publicly as of Tuesday afternoon. SpaceX did not immediately return a request for comment.

Ken Bowersox, the current deputy associate administrator in the human spaceflight office, will serve as the acting administrator. Bowersox, an astronaut who has flown to space six times, previously served as the acting administrator between Gerstenmaier’s departure and Loverro’s arrival at the agency.

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