NASA Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate William Gerstenmaier ast a press conference in June 2019.
Photo: Bill Ingalls (AP) NASA’s longtime associate administrator for its human exploration program, William Gerstenmaier, has been re-assigned to be a special adviser to NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard in what seems like a fairly clear demotion, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Gerstenmaier, who has worked for NASA since 1977, had overseen “some of NASA’s most high-profile programs and is known as a steady and methodical force at the agency’s headquarters,” the Post wrote, recently working with Commercial Crew Program contractors Boeing and SpaceX on their replacements for the retired Space Shuttle.
“As you know, NASA has been given a bold challenge to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, with a focus on the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in an email to staff, according to the Post.
In addition to the Commercial Crew Program, Gerstenmaier has overseen the operations of the International Space Station (which the Trump administration has floated plans to privatize) and NASA’s Space Launch System (which the Post noted has frustrated the Trump administration due to being “years behind schedule and way over budget”).
In fact, per the Verge, on Wednesday, Gerstenmaier had appeared before Congress to talk up Artemis during a hearing on the future of the ISS and low Earth orbit exploration: “NASA’s Artemis program will build a sustainable, open architecture that returns humanity to our nearest neighbor,” Gerstenmaier wrote in his witness testimony for the hearing.
Of note, a recent report from Ars Technica citing “multiple sources inside and outside NASA” reported disputes between the agency’s human spaceflight administrators and the White Houses House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).