Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

NASA shake up in new race to the moon

Module of the Apollo 11 space mission in lunar orbit Module of the Apollo 11 space mission in lunar orbit on 21 July 1969. Image AFP NASA
Sandy Nunez | 13 July, 2019, 20:45

In a memo addressed to the space agency's employees, Bridenstine explained that the leadership change is a bid to meet the challenges of the upcoming 2024 moon mission.

Two top House Democrats panned Bridenstine's decision to remove Gerstenmaier from his leadership role.

Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, speaks during a press conference announcing that NASA is opening the International Space Station for commercial business so U.S. industry innovation and ingenuity can accelerate a commercial economy in low-Earth orbit at the NASDAQ Market site, at Times Square in New York City, U.S., June 7, 2019.

In an email to employees obtained by The Washington Post, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Gerstenmaier would become a special assistant to Jim Morhard, the deputy administrator.

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. Effectively, NASA's first and second in command of humans in space have been replaced at the same time. "We are designing an open, durable, reusable architecture that will support deep space exploration for decades to come". He was hired after Pence's remarks to lead the agency's structure changes. So far, it's unclear if Congress will appropriate the funds needed for the program, and some lawmakers have expressed concern over where the requested money is coming from.

Fire rages on Maui
The fire prompted thousands of residents and visitors in the communities of Maalaea and Kihei to flee as a precaution. No structures have been destroyed so far, although county officials noted that some farm equipment had burned.

These aren't the only big personnel changes that NASA has made recently either.

Gerstenmaier began his career with NASA in 1977 doing aeronautical research.

To meet the administration's goal, NASA is relying on the huge Boeing-built SLS rocket that will be even more powerful than the legendary Saturn 5 boosters that propelled the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

"NASA has all the time been lucky to have nice talent that has served our nation properly", Bridenstine wrote. "As we work to fill these key positions within HEO, we will stay mission focused knowing that exploration will go forward".