For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has announced the selection of Kathy Lueders, Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, to be the chief of all of NASA’s Human Space Flight programs as the agency’s next associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate – even as the first crew of NASA Astronauts to launch from US soil in nearly 9 years on the very commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft program she led at NASA spends their third week on board the International Space Station (ISS).
Thus Leuders will become the first woman to lead NASA human spaceflight.
The announcement of Kathy Leuders selection days comes just a few weeks after the shockingly abrupt resignation of Doug Loverro, her predecessor at HEO, who himself was only recently appointed head of all NASA’s Human Spaceflight programs at Headquarters in Washington, D.C. – until just days before the crew of two NASA astronauts launched on the Demo-2 mission on May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
For the past 6 years Lueders has directed NASA’s efforts to send astronauts to space on private spacecraft.
That effort culminated with the successful launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon on the Demo-2 test flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30 with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
“Kathy gives us the extraordinary experience and passion we need to continue to move forward with Artemis and our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.
“She has a deep interest in developing commercial markets in space, dating back to her initial work on the space shuttle program. From Commercial Cargo and now Commercial Crew, she has safely and successfully helped push to expand our nation’s industrial base. Kathy’s the right person to extend the space economy to the lunar vicinity and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve been given.”
Kathy Lueders has been selected to lead @NASA’s Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate. Kathy has successfully managed both the Commercial Crew & Commercial Cargo programs and is the right person to lead HEO as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024. pic.twitter.com/393vPTdXwb
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) June 12, 2020
Doug Loverro’s unexpected resignation came at a very critical juncture for the agency – just 9 days before American astronauts were to fly again to space from American soil for the first time in 9 years, on the commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle on the Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and as NASA ramps up for the Project Artemis human lunar landings.
Loverro’s resignation as NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) was effective May 18.
“Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Doug Loverro has resigned from his position effective Monday, May 18,” NASA said in a statement May 19
Loverro was only in his position for less than 6 months after having been selected in October 2019 and it came as a complete surprise.
He replaced NASA’s longtime leader of Human Spaceflight Bill Gerstenmaier who was suddenly reassigned by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine last summer – supposedly in hope of sppeding up Project Artemis hardware to accomplish the human landing at the South Pole by 2024.
Thus the directorate is again in sudden transition
There was no reason given for Loverro’s decision – but it may be related to the recently announced selection of 3 contractors for NASA contracts in late April to study a Human Landing System (HLS) for the agency’s Project Artemis goal to land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024.
NASA is ramping up efforts to launch the maiden SLS rocket on the Artemis 1 test flight mission to the Moon with the uncrewed Orion deep space capsule.
All 10 solid rocket motor segments for the twin solid rocket boosters that provide 75% of the liftoff thrust for SLS just arroved at KSC on Monday, June 15 via train.
Here are further details from NASA:
The appointment takes effect immediately. Steve Stich is named Commercial Crew Program Manager, and Ken Bowersox returns to his role as HEO deputy associate administrator.
Lueders began her NASA career in 1992 at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico where she was the Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System and Reaction Control Systems Depot manager. She later moved to the International Space Station Program and served as transportation integration manager, where she led commercial cargo resupply services to the space station.
She also was responsible for NASA oversight of international partner spacecraft visiting the space station, including the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle, and the Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. She went to Kennedy as acting Commercial Crew Program Manager in 2013 and was selected as the head of the office in 2014.
Lueders has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of New Mexico and a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from New Mexico State University.
“I want to thank Ken and the entire HEO team for their steady support of Kathy in making Commercial Crew such a success,” added Bridenstine. “I know they’ll give her the same support as she moves out in her new role. This is such a critical time for the agency and for HEO. We still need to bring Doug and Bob home safely and we’re not going to lose focus. We have our sights set on the Moon and even deeper into space, and Kathy is going to help lead us there.”
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events