Kathy Lueders, who has spent 28 years at NASA, will lead the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, or HEO, NASA announced Friday. She will be the first woman ever to fill the role.
Relying more heavily on contracts similar to the ones Lueders oversaw under the Commercial Crew Program is at the core of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s plans to make the Moon mission a reality.
“This is such a critical time for the agency and for HEO. We still need to bring Doug and Bob home safely and we’re not going to lose focus,” Bridenstine said in a statement, referring to astronauts Hurley and Behnken, who are slated to return home from the ISS in the next few months.
But, Bridenstine added, “we have our sights set on the Moon and even deeper into space, and Kathy is going to help lead us there.”
Steve Stich, the former deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, will now lead the commercial crew program. He’ll continue working with SpaceX as the company gears up to take four more astronauts — three from NASA and one astronaut with Japan’s space agency — to the ISS later this year. He’ll also oversee ongoing development of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which suffered a significant setback during a botched test flight in December. Ken Bowersox, who served as acting head of human spaceflight after Loverro’s departure, will return to his role as the HEO’s deputy associate administrator.
NASA’s Office of the Inspector General announced an audit of the agency’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis program in March.
As Bridenstine works to sell members of Congress on NASA’s game plan for returning to the Moon, Lueders’ success with the SpaceX Demo-2 mission could help garner support for NASA’s efforts to rely on commercial partnerships more extensively.
Before Lueders took control of the Commercial Crew Program in 2013, she held roles managing the Space Shuttle Program’s maneuvering systems and later oversaw NASA’s commercial cargo resupply services, the precursor to the Commercial Crew Program.