Friday, 18 October, 2019

The Bills: What Does NASA's Leadership Shakeup Mean For Moon Plans?

US astronaut Buzz Aldrin climbs down the ladder from the lunar module US astronaut Buzz Aldrin climbs down the ladder from the lunar module"Eagle" 15 minutes after Neil Armstrong on 21 July 1969. Image AFP NASA
Sandra Phillips | 13 July, 2019, 20:43

Bill Gerstenmaier, who was leading the efforts to return humans to the lunar surface, has been with Nasa since 1977 and head of the human exploration office for 14 years.

Effective suddenly, Bridenstine wrote in a letter to company workers, Ken Bowersox, a five-flight shuttle veteran, space station astronaut and Gerstenmaier's deputy, will take over on an acting basis while Gerstenmaier serves as "special advisor" to NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

Bill Hill, a deputy associate administrator under Gerstenmaier, was also moved to a special assistant position under NASA's associate administrator Steve Jurczyk.

Gerstenmaier was ousted from his role hours after he testified before Congress on the future of the International Space Station and plans for low-Earth orbit.

He said "if NASA's not now capable of landing American astronauts on the moon in five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission".

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said there was nothing wrong with what Gerstenmaier was doing.

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In June Bridenstine told CNN Business NASA will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion besides NASA's current budget over the next five years for its Artemis moon project.

He promised to work with her and other members "to achieve our mutual goals in science and exploration". The White House recently requested an additional $1.6 billion for NASA to help jumpstart the Artemis program next year, on top of the $21 billion the administration already requested for the agency.

Wednesday's shakeups are the latest as NASA aims to transform itself into "a leaner, more accountable and more agile organization", as Pence said in the March speech to the National Space Council.

The new timeline gives NASA only five years to acquire the hardware and funds it needs.

But after the crowning glory of July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind, the interest of the public waned and NASA and the space community never again quite commanded the same attention and adulation again.

The Artemis mission could send people to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century.

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