The announcement of Loverro's resignation came the same day that Vice President Mike Pence chaired the seventh meeting of the National Space Council at NASA headquarters and barely a week before astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are due to become the first Americans to launch into space aboard an American-made rocket from US soil since 2011. He said he was leaving the agency "with a very, very heavy heart" after making a "mistake" during his tenure, according to a letter to the workforce obtained by POLITICO.
On May 27, NASA plans to send two astronauts to the International Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011 that astronauts will launch from US soil. Liftoff is scheduled for May 27.
NASA's Space Launch System Program, which is critical to Artemis and was overseen by Loverro, has experienced major cost overruns. Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, NASA announced the three winning corporate teams that will develop lunar landers for astronauts.
However, that person - Doug Loverro - has resigned from NASA, effective May 18.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. Loverro announced his resignation on Tuesday. Loverro came in as head of HEO in October, following the reassignment last summer of Bill Gersteinmaier, who led it for many years and reportedly left after clashing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "I believe it's absolutely possible for us to do so", he said of the 2024 goal of landing astronauts on the moon, despite skepticism from some committee members. If the Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 launcher are cleared for flight, the launch will proceed as planned.
What effect will this change in leadership have on the upcoming launch? "We have full confidence in the work [that commercial crew program manager] Kathy Lueders, and her entire Commercial Crew team have done to bring us here", the memo states.
Two people with knowledge of the situation said his resignation was spurred when Loverro broke a rule during NASA's recent procurement of a spacecraft capable of landing humans on the moon. Elon Musk's company holds a $2.6 billion contract with the agency's Commercial Crew Program for six such operational flights. "I want to be clear that the fact that I am taking this step has nothing to do with your performance as an organization nor with the plans we have placed in motion to fulfill our mission", Loverro wrote.
"The risks we take, whether technical, political or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly", Loverro said. "I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission", Space News quoted the email as saying. In a farewell message to NASA staff, NPR wrote, Loverro referred to this as a "mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences".