Why did NASA chief human space flight Doug Loverro suddenly resign?

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NASA has not yet provided an explanation as to why the agency’s chief human spaceflight abruptly resigned on the eve of a historic launch.

Doug Loverro served as Associate Administrator of the NASA Exploration and Human Operations Mission Directorate for less than seven months before resigning from his position Monday, May 18 – nine days before the launch of two astronauts from NASA on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a test flight to the International Space Station.

According to Space Policy Online, in an emailed statement to NASA staff, Loverro said he had taken a “risk” and “made a mistake”, but he did not specify what motivated his resignation . Space.com spoke with Loverro to try to get an explanation for the nature of the “error.”

Although he did not disclose the circumstances that led to his resignation, Loverro took the opportunity to dispel certain rumors spreading on the Internet.

Related: NASA chief of human space flights optimistic about 2024 Moon targets

It’s not a business issue

So, although we don’t yet know exactly what happened to NASA’s human spaceflight division, we at least know does not have happen, according to Loverro.

First, Loverro said the reason for his resignation had nothing to do with NASA’s commercial crew program, which hired SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS ). The timing of his resignation just before SpaceX’s first crewed test flight to the ISS has led to speculation that Loverro’s “mistake” was related to the upcoming launch.

“The biggest false rumor, the one that worried me the most and I think the agency was the most concerned about … was that there was a problem with the launch of the sales team coming next week that I had resigned, and nothing could be further from the truth, “Loverro told Space.com. He added that there was “no indication” that the launch could be delayed due to the NASA reshuffle.

And Artemis?

Space.com also asked if the resignation could have been caused by a recent audit by the NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG). March 25, the OIG announced on Twitter that he was opening an audit of NASA’s acquisition strategy for its Artemis program, which aims to put humans on the moon in 2024.

“This IG report is an acquisition-related report that was launched by IG exactly as they start other things, they select certain things to look at and see how the agency is doing,” said Loverro. “It’s so completely different. It happens to be contemporary, but it’s completely different from anything that could happen that would affect that. “

Several media have speculated that Loverro’s error could have occurred in the process of purchasing human landing systems that will take NASA astronauts Artemis to the Moon. On April 30, about two weeks before Loverro’s resignation, NASA announced the three teams the agency has selected to develop the Artemis lunar landers: SpaceX, a team led by Blue Origin and Dynetics.

When awarding these contracts, Ars Technica said several sources said Loverro may have violated the Integrity of Procurement Law, which “prohibits the disclosure of source selection and information on offers or proposals entrepreneurs ”before a contract is awarded, according to the Ministry of Justice. In other words, these sources alleged that Loverro could have illegally disclosed information about the companies selected to build human landing systems before the decision was publicly announced.

Loverro declined to comment on this theory, adding that he could only respond to two other rumors regarding the commercial crew program and the OIG investigation. When asked if the circumstances of his resignation will be made public in the future, pending an investigation into his error, Loverro said, “I can’t tell you. I don’t know there will be more details. Space.com contacted NASA for comment, and a spokesperson said they “are unable to discuss personnel issues”

Whatever Loverro did, it apparently had something to do with NASA’s Artemis program – and the lofty goal of putting humans on the moon in a brand new spaceship in just four years.

“Look, I made the calls I thought I should make to go ahead and make the mission happen. And of course, the mission was to arrive on the Moon by 2024, “said Loverro. “So I don’t think I can deny that there is a difference between the things I chose to do and the need to go ahead and get there in 2024.”

Loverro added that he does not expect his resignation to affect the ambitious schedule for Artemis.

Send an email to Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.



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