Kathy Lueders, the new leader in NASA’s human spaceflight programs, is excited to bring astronauts back to the moon one day. However, it cannot guarantee that this new feat will be accomplished in 2024.
On May 19, NASA announced the resignation of its chief of human space flights, Doug Loverro. A surprising departure – the reasons for which are not yet very clear – which came only eight days before SpaceX’s first manned flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Note that Loverro had only worked in this position for six months. Before him, Bill Gerstenmaier had led operations for almost a decade, overseeing, among other things, the end of the space shuttle program and the final assembly of the ISS. NASA said then that former astronaut Ken Bowersox would now be the acting associate administrator, pending the appointment of a new manager.
On Friday June 12, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine finally announced that he had chosen Kathy Lueders, who has directed the manned commercial flight program since 2014. This is the first time that a woman has been appointed to this position.
A major challenge
In his new position, the main objective of Lueders, an engineer by training, will be to bring humans to the Moon by 2024. Asked about the good performance of the Artemis calendar during a press conference held on June 18, her first since her appointment, Kathy Lueders agreed that this goal would still be difficult to achieve.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” she said. But we will try. (…) I think it is very important to have an aggressive goal, “she continued. “It allows the team to focus on the importance of the mission.”
Jim Bridenstine said that a yes or no answer to the 2024 deadline was not appropriate. “It is all about probabilities,” he said. What we did by hiring Kathy Lueders to lead this program was that we increased the likelihood of success. “
No changes have been made to the program at this time. “We will give her time to do what she needs to do, learn what she needs to learn, and then we will give her the power to make the decisions necessary to make it a successful program,” said Jim Bridenstine.
A return in August for the Demo-2 crew
Meanwhile, Kathy Lueders also returned to the current mission of the Demo-2 commercial crew. “The Crew Dragon is doing very well,” she said. The spacecraft has been in “rest mode” since docking at the station since docking on May 31, except for weekly systems checks. ” Lueders also pointed out that a forthcoming next test will be to place four people inside the ship to assess how it is reacting.
In addition, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board are currently scheduled to depart the station in early August. However, here again, nothing is set in stone. This will depend mainly on the progress of the Crew-1 mission, which is scheduled to launch on August 30 at the earliest.