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Exclusive: NASA's administrator explains his decision to replace the person in charge of manned flight programs



The long-time head of NASA's manned space flight programs has been replaced by the agency's efforts to meet President Trump's ambitious goal of sending American astronauts back to the moon in five years, which has deeply upset the space community.

William Gerstenmaier – known to the agency as simply "Gerst" – began working at NASA in 1977 as an engineer and rose to the rank of Associate Administrator for the first time. human exploration and operations in 2004. But according to NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, c Fides who earned him the boot.

"It's been 42 years since he's at NASA and we love him." In fact, we now have the opportunity to land on the moon in 2024 thanks to the hard work that has been done. he put in the program, "said Bridenstine at Gerstenmaier in an exclusive interview with Fox News. "But we sometimes have to remember that he started working at NASA at the age of 2 and that there comes a time in every career when it's time to move on to something else."

William Gerstenmaier, seen here in November 2018, has been replaced as Associate Administrator for Human Exploration at NASA.

William Gerstenmaier, seen here in November 2018, has been replaced as Associate Administrator for Human Exploration at NASA.
(Sergei Savostyanov / TASS via Getty Images, File)

Insisting on what specifically deserved his demotion to Gerstenmaier, Bridenstine said, "I do not think he's doing anything. I just think the time has come for a new leadership. "

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said she was confused by the decision to abruptly dismiss a person with the institutional Gerstenmaier.

"The Trump Administration's ill-defined crash program to land the astronauts on the Moon in 2024 was going to be ambitious enough to be done in the best conditions. Removing the best experienced leaders in the engineering and other human space flight programs from the country at such a crucial time seems at best wrong, "Johnson said.

For months, the Trump administration has been direct with its frustration over the space agency's track record of overspending and delay.

"NASA must evolve into a leaner, more accountable and agile organization," said Vice President Mike Pence in March, when the new moonshot program was announced. "If NASA is not currently able to bring American astronauts to the moon in five years, we must change the organization, not the mission."

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The organization changed Wednesday night when Gerstenmaier and his deputy, Bill Hill, were reassigned to special assistant positions. Former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox has been appointed acting chief of human exploration, but Bridenstine has launched a national search to find a permanent replacement.

"We are going fast to go to the moon. We need a new generation of leaders who can achieve this goal, "said Bridenstine.

Johnson argued that open research was a sign that the reshuffle was poorly designed.

"You do not change horses midway, or if you try to do it, you'd better have the other horse ready to go," Johnson said.

The new NASA moonshot program calls Artemis because it is the "twin sister" of the Apollo program that made the first lunar landing 50 years ago next week. (In ancient Greek mythology, Artemis and Apollo were the twin offspring of the god Zeus and the goddess Leto.)

Bridenstine insists that Gerstenmaier was in the game thanks to the accelerated schedule of Artemis.

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"He helped us create this timeline. He told us that this was feasible, "said Bridenstine. "In fact, we have a chance to land [on the Moon] in 2024 because of his efforts. "

But these efforts were not enough for Gerstenmaier to keep his job. When asked if any other organizational changes were underway, Bridenstine replied, "Not at the moment."


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