Gerstenmaier, Hill Out as Human Spaceflight Leaders at NASA HQ

James Marshall
July 12, 2019

"In an effort to meet this problem, I've determined to make management changes to the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate".

As of recent, William Gerstenmaier has ceased to be the Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

In addition, William Hill - a deputy associate administrator under Gerstenmaier - was also moved to a special assistant position under NASA's associate administrator Steve Jurczyk. Effectively, NASA's first and second in command of humans in space have been replaced at the same time.

To meet this "bold challenge", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an email to employees that Bill Gerstenmaier, head of the agency´s Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) missions directorate, has been removed from his position and assigned an advisory role, the Washington Post and other U.S. news outlets. Mark Sirangelo, who was recently hired to helm a new "Moon to Mars" directorate at NASA, resigned after just one month of working at the agency, and NASA chose to scrap plans for the new division altogether.

Bridenstine thanked Gerstenmaier, who began directing NASA's human spaceflight program in 2005, for his service, saying "he has provided the strategic vision for some of NASA's most important efforts, including the International Space Station, Commercial Crew Program, the lunar Gateway, Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft".

The White House has shown frustration with the pace of NASA's efforts, especially with its premier workhorse rocket known as the Space Launch System, which is years behind schedule and plagued with cost overruns. He was hired after Pence's remarks to lead the agency's structure changes. "It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the next five years". The move signifies something of a demotion for Gerstenmaier at the agency.

At the same time, NASA is now attempting to gain the confidence of the Congress regarding the Artemis program. We are designing an open, durable, reusable architecture that will support deep space exploration for decades to come.

The agency's chief Jim Bridenstine announced the changes in an internal memo to employees, signaling the latest leadership changes.

The program is expected to cost billions more in the next few years as NASA rushes to meet the 2024 target date.

For his long history of service, Gerstenmaier has received numerous awards, including three NASA Certificates of Commendation, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, a Senior NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award, and Distinguish Executive Presidential Rank Award.

Whether or not a Moon landing will happen again by 2024, and whether SPD-1 will survive the next election, are also unclear.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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