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NASA replaces a key administrator during a push to return to the Moon

Hearing of the House Scientific Committee on Deep Space Exploration and the recent Orion test

William Gerstenmaier, a veteran of NASA, was demoted.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

NASA has shaken its leadership as a Trump government pushes the agency to return to the moon. William Gerstenmaier, head of the agency's human exploration bureau, was suddenly demoted Wednesday.

Gerstenmaier, who had worked for the agency since 1977, was working with Boeing and SpaceX to develop a spacecraft to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. He also directed the agency's efforts to send the astronauts back to the moon.

In an email obtained by CNET, Jim Bridenstine, a NASA director, told employees Wednesday that Gerstenmaier would become the special assistant to Jim Morhard, the assistant administrator.

"As you know, NASA has launched a bold challenge: to place the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, with the focus on the ultimate goal of the game. send human beings to Mars, "says Bridenstine's message. "In order to meet this challenge, I decided to change the direction of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) mission direction."

Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut who had held the position of Assistant Deputy Administrator of the Human Exploration Bureau, will take over from Gerstenmaier, according to Bridenstine's e-mail. Bill Hill, associate associate director of human exploration, was also reassigned to the position of special advisor Steve Jurczyk, associate director of NASA.

In March, Vice President Mike Pence surprised many when he challenged NASA to put the astronauts back on the Moon 2024, dating back from the agency schedule for a return at the lunar surface of several years.

"What we need now is an emergency," said Pence during a speech to a crowd at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. "It's the declared policy of this administration and the United States of America to send American astronauts back to the moon in the next five years."

At the time, NASA's Moon to Mars page still indicated 2028 as a target for sending astronauts to the moon. It was soon updated with 2024 as a new target for astronauts on the moon.

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