Exit of NASA’s Human Spaceflight Head Week Before Launch Causes Concern

NASA's head of its human spaceflight office, Douglas Loverro, quit just eight days before NASA is supposed to send two astronauts into space. (photo credit: NASA.gov)

NASA’s human spaceflight chief has quit just one week prior to the government organization’s design to send off astronauts from the United States for the first time in nine years, sparking concern in Congress regarding how the chaos may disorganize the momentous mission, POLITICO reported.

For only seven months was Douglas Loverro the associate administrator for the human exploration and operations mission directorate. He stated that he was departing from government organization “with a very, very heavy heart” after committing a “mistake” while he was in the NASA position. That’s what a letter to staff, of which POLITICO got ahold, revealed.

“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,” said Loverro, who had labored at the hush-hush National Reconnaissance Office. “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.”

“My leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we accomplished together,” Loverro added.

While the government organization said that Loverro’s exit was a result of him quitting, two industry agents told POLITICO that he was forced out by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

However, after POLITICO reached Loverro by phone, Loverro reiterated that his exit is not due to a dispute with Bridenstine or any worries about safety regarding the launch scheduled for May 27. Additionally, he wouldn’t give particulars concerning his “mistake.”

Loverro started the position in October after William Gerstenmaier was relegated and later departed from NASA.

Bridenstine lauded Loverro’s labors, stating in a memo to his workforce that POLITICO got ahold of that he “has moved us closer to accomplishing our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024.”

Major members of Congress sought feedback late Tuesday regarding Loverro’s exit, particularly given that it happened just eight days before the first journey of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, planned to carry two astronauts, in its intended duty.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing,” Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), the House Science, Space and Technology Committee space subcommittee chairwoman, stated. “The bottom line is that, as the committee that oversees NASA, we need answers.”