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.
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.”
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