Enlarge /. Douglas Loverro, NASA Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission, is seen during a NASA City Hall event on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.
On Tuesday, NASA announced that its human space chief had resigned from the space agency. The time for Doug Loverro's departure is terrible. NASA's first launch of people in almost nine years is expected to take place in just eight days.
The space agency issued a mild statement regarding Loverro's resignation as Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) at NASA.
"Doug Loverro, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, resigned effective Monday, May 18," the statement said. "Loverro gave the first go this year and made significant progress in his time at NASA. His leadership at HEO has brought us closer to our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024. Loverro has more dedicated to serving four decades of his life serving our country, and we thank him for his service and contributions to the agency. "
Loverro's resignation triggered a storm of speculation after his announcement. He was supposed to lead a flight readiness review meeting on Thursday to officially clear the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the first human flight to the International Space Station. The final decision for this mission was his. This launch is currently scheduled for May 27th.
Not related to Crew Dragon
However, his departure does not appear to be directly related to his work on Crew Dragon. Rather, it seems to be due to the recent process in which NASA selected three offers from five bidders – led by Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. In an email to NASA staff on Tuesday, Loverro admitted that he had made a mistake earlier this year.
"Our mission is certainly not an easy one, not for the faint of heart, and taking risks is part of the job description," Loverro wrote. "The risks we take, whether technical, political or personal, all have potential consequences if we misjudge them. I took such a risk earlier this year because I felt it was necessary to complete our mission. Now over time It is clear that I made a mistake in this decision, for which I alone have to bear the consequences, which is why I am writing to you today with a very, very heavy heart to let you know that with effect from the NASA resigned May 18, 2020. "
Sources at NASA headquarters, where Loverro became popular and respected, were devastated by the news on Tuesday. Loverro only came to NASA six months ago and replaced NASA's long-time chief of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, who was too slow in implementing the agency's Artemis Moon plan. Loverro is fully committed to the space agency's goal of landing people on the moon by 2024.
In its statement, NASA said former astronaut Ken Bowersox would play Loverro's role.
"As of now, Ken Bowersox will serve as the Associate Administrator for HEO. Bowersox, currently the Associate Administrator for HEO, is a retired US Naval Aviator with more than two decades of experience at NASA," the statement said. "He is an accomplished astronaut and a veteran of five space shuttle missions and commander on the International Space Station. Bowersox has previously led HEO in a transitional period, and NASA has the right leadership to make further progress with Artemis and the commercial crew Programs. "
Loverro's resignation surprised almost everyone. Wayne Hale, chairman of a NASA advisory committee that hosted Loverro just last week, said he didn't expect this. But Hale expressed confidence in Bowersox. "Ken Bowersox is able to lead a flight readiness review," Hale told Ars. "His experience and judgment make him exceptionally well placed to act in this critical time."