NASA’s human spaceflight program suffers leadership loss with Loverro departure

Artist illustration of NASA's Artemis Program Lunar Gateway. Credit: NASA.

It didn’t have to happen. But Doug Loverro, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, was forced into leaving his position just a week before NASA returns to launching astronauts on American rockets.

The news shocked many except for a few at NASA headquarters 9th floor. The 9th floor is where NASA leadership have their offices.

Douglas Loverro
Douglas Loverro. Credit: NASA.

Pushed by an aggressive White House timeline, with an almost impossible goal of returning American astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, Doug Loverro was faced with decisions that needed to made in quick succession.

An experienced administrator whose biography is impressive, Loverro was tasked just six months ago with taking over NASA’s challenging Human Exploration and Operation portfolio.

He went about his task with precision, honed by years serving in the military and various Defense positions, and found a path forward that might get Americans astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, just as President Trump commanded.

In so doing he made decisions that weren’t liked by everyone. Tough decisions. This included recently selecting the three companies for the Artemis program human landing system, a decision that was critical to making the 2024 date.

In his letter to his colleagues on his leaving Loverro stated “my leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we have accomplished together.” It’s cryptic, and points to a story that hasn’t been told yet, but which will be someday.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sent his own note to NASA staff noting Loverro’s resignation, but not dealing with the “why” he was leaving.

NASA Watch broke the story with the headline “Doug Loverro Was Asked To Resign And He Has.” I spoke with NASA Watch editor Keith Cowing who said sources told him that there’s much more to the story. It’s a matter of time before it comes out.

Of importance to Canada, Loverro was the architect of changes to Artemis program that included reducing the role of the Lunar Gateway to accommodate the 2024 timeline. While not completely descoped, the Lunar Gateway is no longer in the critical path.

For now, Ken Bowersox, Loverro’s deputy is taking over the role of Acting Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations directorate. He’s done that once before when Bill Gerstenmaier was reassigned.

There’s no timeframe to name a permanent Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operation. When that does happen though there could be changes to the Artemis program including the role of the Lunar Gateway.

At this time though, NASA is focused on the SpaceX Crew Demo 2 launch set for next Wednesday, May 27, which will see American astronauts launch from American soil for the first time since 2011.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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