Enlarge /. NASA's Kathy Lueders celebrates the opening of Crew Dragon's hatch on May 31.
On Friday morning, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that he had chosen Kathy Lueders as the new chief of the space agency for human space travel. In this position, she will help define human space policies and implement them across the agency. Your primary mandate will be to bring people to the moon by 2024 or shortly thereafter.
"Kathy gives us the exceptional experience and passion we need to continue driving Artemis and our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024," said Bridenstine. "Kathy is the right person to expand the space economy to the lunar environment and achieve the ambitious goals that we have been given."
As a commercial crew program manager, with SpaceX recently taking NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station, Lueders led the only big ticket program for the space agency that delivered to Bridenstine. Other high profile programs, including the Rocket Space Launch System and the James Webb Space Telescope, have continued to experience delays.
Several sources indicated that this attitude is in line with Bridenstine's view that commercial space companies will play an increasingly important role in exploring human space in the future. Bridenstine has urged NASA to make more of its bids based on fixed-price contracts and to prefer bidders who also invest in their own hardware and try to sell their space services to customers other than NASA.
As head of the commercial crew program, Lueders was advisory. But she also recognized the cultural differences between NASA and companies like SpaceX that want to move quickly. In the end, she successfully formed the different NASA and SpaceX workforces into a coherent team that culminated in a successful mission to date.
I'm a big fan of Kathy Lueders!
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk), May 22, 2020
Steve Stich, her deputy, will be promoted to program manager for the commercial crew.
Lueders will replace Doug Loverro, who resigned from NASA just over three weeks ago. As Ars reported shortly afterwards, Loverro left NASA after unduly interfering with the contract process for a human landing system to bring astronauts to the surface of the moon. The Inspector General of NASA has not yet finalized his report, but Loverro is said to have spoken to Boeing during a blackout period of the bidding process.
Loverro had only worked at NASA for about six months. Before him, Bill Gerstenmaier had spent about a decade in this position, overseeing the end of the space shuttle program and final assembly of the International Space Station, and trying to create a space program. A few months after Gerstenmaier's departure, he took up a position at SpaceX and worked as an engineer on the company's human spacecraft. Sources say he is happy there, enjoys being outside the Beltway and tackling technical challenges.