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NASA taps Kathy Lueders, head of Commercial Crew Program, to lead human spaceflight office

Lueders becomes first woman to hold post

NASA’s Kathy Lueders participates in a post-launch news conference inside the Press Site auditorium at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020, following the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. (Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
NASA’s Kathy Lueders participates in a post-launch news conference inside the Press Site auditorium at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020, following the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. (Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett) (WKMG 2020)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Kathy Lueders, the cool head behind NASA’s Commercial Crew Program for the past eight years, will now oversee the U.S. space agency’s human spaceflight office, becoming the first woman in this role.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Friday that Lueders, the manager of commercial crew, was appointed associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, which oversees all astronaut-related missions and programs.

Anyone who has followed developments as SpaceX and Boeing prepared to fly NASA astronauts under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program will recognize Lueders. She has been the head of the program since its infancy, now Lueders will oversee all of human spaceflight operation.

“Kathy gives us the extraordinary experience and passion we need to continue to move forward with Artemis and our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024,” Bridenstine said in a statement. “She has a deep interest in developing commercial markets in space, dating back to her initial work on the space shuttle program. From Commercial Cargo and now Commercial Crew, she has safely and successfully helped push to expand our nation’s industrial base. Kathy’s the right person to extend the space economy to the lunar vicinity and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve been given.”

Lueders will replace Ken Bowersox, who will return to his role as deputy associate administrator of the human spaceflight office. Bowersox was temporarily leading the office after Doug Loverro stepped down in May, eight days before the first attempt to launch NASA astronauts from U.S. soil since 2011.

Steve Stich will fill Lueders’ shoes as the new Commercial Crew Program manager.

As head of the Commercial Crew Program, Lueders offered a cool head to a program that has faced delays but has proven a success after SpaceX’s first astronauts launch last month.

Normally stoic with the task at hand, Lueders grinned ear-to-ear after NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were safely delivered to the International Space Station onboard the first private spacecraft to make that happen.

Through the years of SpaceX and Boeing preparing to certify their spacecraft to fly humans, Lueders has maintained no one would launch until NASA is ready.

“We’re not done ... we gotta do this right,” Lueders said on May 22, days before SpaceX would launch astronauts for the first time. “We gotta make sure they get home and we are committed to do that.”

A veteran of NASA’s workforce, Lueders began her career with the space agency at White Sands test Facility in New Mexico where she was the space shuttle orbital maneuvering system and reaction control systems depot manager.

She later served under roles for the International Space Station program and managed the commercial cargo resupply missions to the ISS. Lueders also oversaw the agency’s part in its international partners resupply missions to the ISS.

Lueders has been at Kennedy Space Center since 2013 where she has overseen the Commercial Crew Program first as acting manager and then as the head of the office in 2014.

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