NASA replaces key administrator amid push to return to moon

Federico Mansilla
Julio 13, 2019

Gerstenmeir has been with NASA since 1977.

The biggest change to rock the agency is the demotion of Bill Gerstenmaier, who was leading the efforts to return humans to the lunar surface.

The two top administrators worked in the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) division of the agency - overseeing human aspects of NASA like staffing the International Space Station and building the next moon rocket.

Vice President Mike Pence earlier this year directed NASA to speed up its return to the moon dramatically - by four years, to 2024 - a move that took many in the agency by surprise.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier and deputy associate administrator Bill Hill have been reassigned within the agency.

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"As you know, NASA has been given a bold challenge to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, with a focus on the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars", Bridenstine's email said.

"In an effort to meet this challenge, I have decided to make leadership changes to the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate". Former astronaut Ken Bowersox will be the acting head of the section, according to Bridenstine's email.

Wednesday's shakeups are the latest as NASA aims to transform itself into "a leaner, more accountable and more agile organization", as Pence said in the March speech to the National Space Council. "If NASA's not now capable of landing American astronauts on the moon in five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission".

Still, Aldrin later wrote in his 2009 book, "Magnificent Desolation", that he felt he had properly honored God by celebrating the Lord's Supper on the moon, "much as Christopher Columbus and other explorers had done when they first landed in their 'new world'".

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