The head of NASA’s human spaceflight office resigned Tuesday as astronauts readied for their first launch in a decade from American soil.
Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations mission directorate, had been in the for only seven months.
Loverro said he was leaving NASA ‘with a very, very heavy heart’ after making an unspecified ‘mistake’ he made during his short tenure, according to a letter to the space agency’s staff.
Members of Congress were alarmed by his sudden departure and how it may impact the maiden voyage set for next Wednesday of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations mission directorate at NASA has abruptly resigned a week before astronauts readied for their first launch in a decade from American soil
Loverro announced his departure to staff as two astronauts are to launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule next Wednesday
‘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 writes in the letter, POLITICO reports.
Loverro had previously worked at the secretive National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and launches military satellites.
‘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.’
Loverro officially resigned his position. However, two industry officials tell POLITICO that he was pushed out by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
But Loverro still insisted that his resignation was not the result of a disagreement with Bridenstine, he tells POLITICO. His departure also was not due to safety concerns about the upcoming launch. He declined to offer specifics about his ‘mistake.’
Loverro took over the job in October from his predecessor, William Gerstenmaier, who was demoted and would eventually leave NASA.
Bridenstine had praised Loverro’s work, 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.’
Loverro officially resigned his position. However, two industry officials say that he was pushed out by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (pictured)
Alarmed members of Congress are demanding more information about his departure, especially because it came about a week before the maiden voyage of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule next Wednesday.
‘I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing,’ Rep. Kendra Horn, a Democrat representing Oklahoma who also is the chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee., said in a statement.
‘Under this administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our nation’s efforts at human space flight,’ she wrote.
Congress is demanding more information about Loverro’s departure after it came about a week before the maiden voyage of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule next Wednesday. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon capsule, lifts off on a test flight
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who chairs the science panel, was left ‘shocked’ by the news Loverro was gone.
‘I trust that NASA Administrator Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt,’ the congresswoman says.
‘Beyond that, Mr. Loverro’s resignation is another troubling indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is still not on stable footing,’ she added. ‘I look forward to clarification from NASA as to the reasons for this latest personnel action.’
The journey next week to the International Space Station from Florida’s Cape Canaveral will be the first from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
The journey next week to the International Space Station from Florida’s Cape Canaveral will be the first from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011. Pictured is the unmanned SpaceX Dragon on approach to the the International Space Station last year
Pictured is the unmanned SpaceX Dragon successfully docked at the International Space Station last year
Next week’s launch to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral, Florida, will be the first from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
NASA was mum about Loverro’s departure late Tuesday and SpaceX did not return multiple requests for comment.
Former astronaut Ken Bowersox is to replace Loverro in an acting capacity.
Bowersox flew into space six times and is now the deputy associate administrator in the human spaceflight office.