Oct 16, 2019

NASA has a new head of human spaceflight

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.

Go deeper

Why an all-female spacewalk took so long

NASA astronaut Christina Koch takes a selfie during a spacewalk. Photo: NASA

As NASA aims to make spaceflight more inclusive and equitable, outdated ideas about women and their fitness for certain aspects of spaceflight still persist.

Driving the news: During a press briefing ahead of the historic all-female spacewalk on Friday, NASA's acting associate administrator for human exploration Ken Bowersox suggested that it took this long for two women to go on a spacewalk together in part because women's bodies aren't as fit for spacewalking as men's.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

NASA mission aims to map water ice on moon's south pole for the first time

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Oct. 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

NASA announced Friday plans to send the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon in Dec. 2022 to study the concentration of water ice.

Why it matters: VIPER will gather data to inform NASA's first global water resource maps of the Moon. The mission's project manager, Daniel Andrews, said VIPER will help answer the question of "if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world."

Go deeperArrowOct 26, 2019

Astronauts step outside for first all-female spacewalk in history

NASA's Christina Koch during a spacewalk on Friday. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch stepped into the vacuum of space for a history-making spacewalk outside of the International Space Station on Friday.

Why it matters: While American women have been flying in space since Sally Ride made her first trip to orbit in 1983, today's spacewalk marks the first all-female spacewalk in history.

Go deeperArrowOct 18, 2019