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The agency's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said Wednesday that Bill Gerstenmaier, the respected director of manned spaceflight, had been replaced in the midst of an ambitious campaign to meet the Trump administration's directive to return astronauts on the moon. five years.
As of now, Bridenstine wrote in a letter to employees of the agency. Ken Bowersox, a shuttle veteran, space station astronaut and deputy Gerstenmaier, will take over acting, while Gerstenmaier will be the "special advisor" of the deputy administrator of NASA, Jim Morhard. .
"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, "Bridenstine wrote. "In order to meet this challenge, I decided to change the direction of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) mission direction."
Bill Hill, associate associate director for the development of exploration systems at HEO, has also been replaced. A long-time NASA veteran, Hill helped manage the development of the agency's new high-launch rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which would allow astronauts to bring astronauts back to the moon.
"NASA has always been blessed with a great talent that has served our country well," wrote Bridenstine. "As we work to fill these key positions within HEO, we will remain focused on our mission, knowing that exploration will continue.
Earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence announced that NASA's mission is to accelerate the astronauts' return to the moon, extending the agency's target date from 2028 to 2024. The program Lunar Revised is known as Artemis.
To achieve the goal of the administration, NASA relies on the huge SLS rocket built by Boeing, which will be even more powerful than the legendary Saturn 5 boosters that propelled astronauts off the air. Apollo on the Moon. Artemis astronauts will fly to the moon aboard more spacious Orion capsules built by Lockheed Martin.
Current plans are for crews to dock with a mini space station – Gateway – in lunar orbit before descending to the surface in a commercially developed lander. The Trump administration has requested additional funding of $ 1.6 billion for NASA's 2020 budget to revive the development of Artemis.
The program is expected to cost billions of dollars more over the next few years as NASA rushes to reach the 2024 target.
NASA officials initially hoped to launch the SLS recall during its inaugural test flight in 2017, but the huge rocket experienced many delays that resulted in higher costs. The space agency now hopes to launch the SLS and an unmanned Orion capsule as part of a test flight around the moon at the end of 2020 or, more likely, in 2021.
The second flight of an SLS will transport four astronauts on lunar orbit between 8:22:20 pm and the third will transport a crew to Gateway for the first lunar landing.
Gerstenmaier appeared to be in favor of the first test of the Mammoth rocket, powered by four main engines of the upgraded Space Shuttle, at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, to ensure the booster was meeting design specifications.
But the so-called "running" test would add about five months to the rocket development program, prompting some officials to suggest sending the rocket directly to Florida for a shorter, less in-depth hot spot on the ramp. 39B. NASA has not yet announced its decision on the green run test.
Bridenstine thanked Gerstenmaier, who began directing NASA's manned space flight program in 2005, for his service, stating, "He has provided strategic vision for some of NASA's most important efforts, including the Station. International Space, Commercial Crew Program, Lunar Gateway, Space Launch Rocket System and Orion Spacecraft.
"As a country, we are grateful for its services that have helped advance America's priorities and expand the boundaries of science, technology and exploration," wrote Bridenstine.