The head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, Doug Loverro has departed the agency abruptly. The position will be temporarily filled by Loverro’s deputy Ken Bowersox as the agency prepares for the first crewed launch from US soil in almost a decade.
In a May 19 statement, NASA confirmed that Loverro had resigned as the agency’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations effective May 18. Although the exact nature of his resignation is not known, it is not believed to have anything to do with the SpaceX Demo-2 commercial crew launch next week.
In an “all hands” email to NASA employees, Loverro referenced a “mistake” he believed he made as the primary motivator behind his decision.
“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,” wrote Loverro. “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.”
Although Loverro did not detail what mistake he had made, reports have speculated that it had something to do with Artemis human landing systems contracts awarded in April. Specifically, commentators have outlined theories that due to political pressure, Loverro was pressured into making a decision about an ultimately unsuccessful Boeing bid. This, however, is largely speculation at this stage.
Loverro’s departure comes at an inopportune moment as NASA prepares to launch the first crewed mission from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle almost a decade ago. Ken Bowersox should, however, be more than up to the task of guiding SpaceX and the agency over the line.
Bowersox is a retired US Naval Aviator and has been with NASA for more than 20 years. As an astronaut, Bowersox was a part of five shuttle missions and served as the commander of the International Space Station. If his extensive experience weren’t reassuring enough, Bowersox has held the top job for NASA’s human spaceflight programs before.
Following the reassignment of Bill Gertenmaier in July last year, Bowersox filled the role of acting Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations until Loverro was hired in October. He is, it would seem, the preferred go-to super-sub for NASA to borrow a football metaphor.