NASA's head of human spaceflight resigned Monday, sending shockwaves through the agency and the entire space industry just eight days before the first launch of NASA astronauts from the U.S. in nearly a decade.
Doug Loverro, who joined NASA in October 2019, was expected to oversee a launch on May 27 that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in a capsule developed by SpaceX.
Loverro had also been guiding the agency’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 -- an ambitious goal set by the Trump administration.
In a letter to NASA, Loverro said he was stepping down due to his “personal actions” and not the agency’s performance.
“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. 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.”
NASA did not immediately clarify what Loverro’s “mistake” was.
"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 to his former colleagues. "My leaving is because of my personal actions, not anything we have accomplished together."
The agency said Ken Bowersox, a retired U.S. Naval aviator who has worked for both NASA and SpaceX, will serve as acting associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations (HEO).