Oct 16, 2019 - Science

NASA has a new head of human spaceflight

An astronaut selfie in space with Earth in the background

Photo: NASA

Former Department of Defense official Douglas Loverro has been named NASA's new head of human spaceflight after a months-long search.

Why it matters: Loverro will help lead NASA's push to the Moon as part of its Artemis program to land astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024, as directed by the Trump administration.

The state of play: Loverro joins NASA at a time when the agency is pushing to end its reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the International Space Station through contracts with Boeing and SpaceX.

  • The agency is also attempting to make up ground after years of delays in the development of its Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule.

The intrigue: Loverro was picked for the job after his predecessor, William Gerstenmaier, was ousted from the position in July.

  • Gerstenmaier was a well-loved figure in the space agency, and his reassignment came as a surprise to many in the industry.

The big picture: NASA doesn't appear to have the support it needs from key members of Congress in order to get people back to the Moon by 2024.

  • "We cannot afford to fail. Therefore, I believe that it is better to use the original NASA schedule of 2028 in order to have a successful, safe and cost-effective mission for the benefit of the American people and the world," Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) said during a Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing today.
  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that the agency will need about $20 billion to $30 billion to pull off the Artemis mission by 2024, but NASA has yet to detail exactly how much in funding is needed to make the mission happen.
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