Astronauts arrive in Florida to set new NASA traditions for crewed spaceflight

The Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-2 arrives at LC-39A where it will launch on the next NASA human spaceflight mission – via NASA

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley take questions from journalists after their arrival at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Loverro, who came to NASA in October 2019, would have presided over the Flight Readiness Review - an important safety check scheduled for later this week to get ready for the planned May 27 launch that will send two NASA astronauts on a brief journey to the global space station.

NASA is already under pressure from President Donald Trump who has instructed the space agency to return to the moon by 2024, accelerating an already risky undertaking.

"Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Doug Loverro has resigned from his position effective Monday, May 18", said the memo sent to employees on Tuesday, adding that Ken Bowersox, Nasa's deputy associate administrator, will take Loverro's place until a permanent replacement is found.

That's some pretty heavy stuff, but in speaking with the paper directly, Loverro claimed his statement is not related to the Commercial Crew program.

Space Shuttle Columbia piloted by Ken Bowersox lands at the Kennedy Space Center at the conclusion of STS-50 – via L2
Space Shuttle Columbia piloted by Ken Bowersox lands at the Kennedy Space Center at the conclusion of STS-50 – via L2

Loverro took the post in October a year ago to helm Nasa's efforts to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024, a hastened timeline set by the Trump administration in 2019.

The mission, which will be carried out via the company's Crew Dragon capsule, will mark the first time that NASA will be able to launch astronauts from USA soil in nearly a decade.

The reasons for Loverro's departure are not clear, but they must be very compelling for him to leave at this crucial moment when a program he oversaw is entering its final stages.

"The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly", he wrote.

Loverro's sudden resignation raised some eyebrows on Capitol Hill with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who chairs the House space and science committee, saying she was "shocked" by the news. The letter goes on to say "I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences". The launch is scheduled for next week, on May 27. They'll soar from the same pad where Atlantis closed out the space shuttle program in 2011, the last home launch for NASA astronauts. A vital launch readiness review is planned for later this week. He declined to offer specifics about his 'mistake'.

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