Posts tagged with "International Space Station"

NASA’s human spaceflight leader mysteriously resigns before SpaceX Crew Dragon launch

May 21, 2020

The head of NASA’s Human Spaceflight program, Douglas Loverro, has resigned after spending about seven months at the agency.

The unexpected exit has set off alarms in Congress about the flight, itself—as well as how this disruption could affect the historic mission.

Indeed, in a letter to NASA employees, Loverro said that he is leaving the program “with a very, very heavy heart” after making a “mistake” during his tenure, according to a letter obtained by Politico,

The resignation comes little more than a week before NASA and SpaceX—the latter, a private American aerospace manufacturer—are slated to launch two astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station for the first time, Fast Company reports.

Meanwhile, Ars Technica reports that Loverro was set to give the final okay for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will carry astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

That job now will fall to Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations.

Loverro wrote that he was leaving the agency due to an undisclosed “mistake,” according to the letter obtained by Politico. 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,” Loverro reportedly wrote. “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.”

The question is, why?

Top lawmakers demanded answers late Tuesday, May 19, about Loverro’s departure, especially since it occurred just eight days before the maiden voyage set for May 27 of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing,” Representative Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma), the chairperson of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee, said in a statement. “Under this administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our nation’s efforts at human space flight.”

The bottom line is that, as the committee that overseas NASA, we need answers,” she concluded.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who chairs the science panel, was “shocked” by the development; but said in a statement. “I trust that NASA Administrator [Jim] Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt.”

“Beyond that, Mr. Loverro’s resignation is another troubling indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is still not on stable footing.  I look forward to clarification from NASA as to the reasons for this latest personnel action.”

Reached by Fast Company, a NASA spokesperson sent over a boilerplate statement confirming Loverro’s departure and said that the agency is “unable to discuss personnel matters” beyond it.

Research contact: @FastCompany

NASA considers selling naming rights for rockets to brands

September 11, 2018

As if NASA doesn’t already have a  “high enough profile,” the U.S. space agency is reportedly looking into selling naming rights to spacecraft and allowing astronauts to appear in advertisements for brands—Jim Lovell on a box of Wheaties?—as a move to boost public awareness, The Washington Post reported on September 10.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, whom President Trump appointed to the post in April, announced at an August 29 NASA Advisory Council Meeting that he was forming a committee to look into the issue.

Bridenstine said at the meeting that having astronauts appear on cereal boxes, like professional athletes do, would inspire kids and help the agency become “embedded into the American culture.”

“I’d like to see kids growing up, instead of maybe wanting to be like a professional sports star, I’d like to see them grow up wanting to be a NASA astronaut, or a NASA scientist,” he said.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said, according to the Post. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”

Critics of the plan, including former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, argue that allowing brands to purchase ad space on rockets could present ethics conflicts for the agency.

Kelly told the Post that the move “would be a dramatic shift from the rules prohibiting government officials from using their public office for private gain.”

A recent study from the federally funded Washington, DC-based Science and Technology Policy Institute found that selling naming and branding rights could yield significant revenue for NASA.

The proposal comes at a time when NASA is seeing a boost in its cultural popularity, with an increased interest in the possibility of space tourism and Hollywood movies highlighting the agency. A NASA multimedia liaison told the Post that requests to use the agency’s logo on products and apparel have skyrocketed.

The Trump administration also has discussed a desire to cut off government funding for the International Space Station and move toward privatizing the project in the coming years.

Research contact: christian.davenport@washpost.com