May 19, 2020 - Science

NASA head of human spaceflight resigns ahead of crewed SpaceX flight

A view at night of the Earth from the International Space Station.
A view at night of the Earth from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

NASA's head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, has resigned from his position at the space agency.

Why it matters: Loverro's resignation comes only a week before SpaceX is expected to launch a pair of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, marking the first crewed launch from the U.S. since 2011.

Details: In an interview with Axios, Loverro said his sudden departure had nothing to do with the upcoming rocket launch.

  • "I have 100% faith in the success of that mission," Loverro told Axios.
  • While Loverro wouldn't comment on the specifics of his resignation, some reports suggest he stepped down because he broke a rule involving the awarding of contracts to companies that hope to build lunar landers for NASA.
  • "I have no bitter feelings at all about what has happened," Loverro added. "I took a risk and I knew the potential consequences at the time."

Background: Loverro was put in charge of human spaceflight at NASA in October after Bill Gerstenmaier, a much-loved figure at the agency, was reassigned.

  • According to a message sent out to NASA staff, deputy associate administrator for human spaceflight Ken Bowersox will take over as acting chief.

Between the lines: The chief of human spaceflight is a powerful position within NASA. The person in that role effectively sets the tone for NASA's most prominent job — as an agency that explores.

  • During Loverro's short tenure, he promoted NASA's plans to return people to the Moon by 2024.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Loverro.

Go deeper