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NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch veteran astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley on a voyage to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, that is expected to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The mission, known as Demo-2, is scheduled for May 27th at 4:32 p.m. Eastern Time.
The head of NASA’s human spaceflight, Douglas Loverro, resigned just eight days before the agency will conduct its first Astronaut launch from American soil in nearly a decade. He had only served about 7 months in human spaceflight operations. According to a letter Loverro wrote, he said he was leaving the agency "with a very, very heavy heart" after making a "mistake" during his time at NASA. "Throughout my long government career of over four and a half decades I have always found it to be true that we are sometimes, as leaders, called on to take risks," wrote Loverro, "The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly. I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences."
"My leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we accomplished together," he added.
The exact “mistake” was not revealed in the letter, and NASA did not detail it. It is likely the reasons will not be released until after the historic Astronaut launch. The agency sent a memo to employees that said:
“Loverro hit the ground running this year and has made significant progress in his time at NASA. His leadership of [human exploration] has moved us closer to accomplishing our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024. Loverro has dedicated more than four decades of his life in service to our country, and we thank him for his service and contributions to the agency.”
The head of human spaceflight position at NASA has gone through disturbance before. In July 2019, NASA demoted the original head of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, who is specialized in human spaceflight and proudly served at NASA for nearly 15 years. Gerstenmaier obtained a job as an advisor for SpaceX, his extensive experience is useful for the aerospace company’s future space program. NASA then hired Loverro in December to take his position. Now, Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut who has been launched to space 6 times will take on the role of Head of Human Spaceflight.
I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade. Under this Administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our efforts at human space flight. https://t.co/27pJgSaPXn— Congresswoman Kendra Horn (@RepKendraHorn) May 19, 2020
On Tuesday, a lawmaker demanded more details about Loverro's departure, since it comes during an exciting period in which astronauts will be launched from the United States for the first time since 2011. "I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing," Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), the chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee's space subcommittee, said in a statement. "Under this administration, we've seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our nation's efforts at human space flight. […] The bottom line is that, as the committee that oversees NASA, we need answers," she stated.
This occurs as astronauts are quarantined in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, on May 20th, they will travel aboard a NASA Gulfstream jet to Florida, where they will review launch day operations for a final time at the Kennedy Space Center. Upon arrival, the astronauts will receive mission briefings, starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The agency will broadcast their arrival and host an interview with Astronauts Behnken and Hurley, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. This briefing will initiate a week-long broadcast of conferences and interviews as the launch approaches. You can watch coverage in the video below via NASA Television.