Eight days from the first astronaut launch from American soil in nine years, NASA announced the head of its human spaceflight office had stepped down.
Doug Loverro was appointed as associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in October 2019. The office oversees all human related spaceflight missions and program.
On Tuesday, NASA sent a memo to employees informing them Loverro stepped down on Monday and Ken Bowersox would take his place as acting associate administrator for HEO.
NASA confirmed the leadership change in a statement to News 6.
“Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Doug Loverro has resigned from his position effective Monday, May 18,” the statement read. “Loverro hit the ground running this year and has made significant progress in his time at NASA. His leadership of HEO 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.”
Bowersox was the deputy associate administrator for HEO and previously led the office prior to Loverro’s appointment. Now, he’s back leading the head of human spaceflight.
Bowersox is a retired U.S. Naval Aviator and astronaut who has been with the space agency for two decades, according to NASA. He flew on five space shuttle missions.
“NASA has the right leadership in place to continue making progress on the Artemis and Commercial Crew programs,” the agency said in a statement.
The move was a surprise to those outside the agency, because NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch astronauts from Florida’s Space Coast for the first time since 2011 when the shuttle program ended.
A reason for the shake up so close to the critical launch was not provided. When asked a NASA spokeswoman said they could not discuss personnel matters.
The leadership change was also not mentioned at the National Space Council meeting Tuesday attended by Vice President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
On May 27, NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are set to launch in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center. The event is set to be a historic launch for NASA and SpaceX.