As it moves toward the ideal return to the moon, in 2024, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will create two new mission directorates. With the move, the agency separates its existing Directorate for Human Exploration and Operations Mission into the Directorate for Exploration Systems Development (ESDMD) and Directorate for Spatial Operations Mission. NASA said it is making the change in response to the increasing number of missions it is doing in a low-Earth orbit, in addition to the plans it has for exploring deep space in the future.
It also announced who will lead the units. Jim Free, a NASA veteran who has been on and off with the space agency since 1990, is the new co-administrator of ESDMD, while Kathy Lueders holds the equivalent position at the Directorate of Space Operations. Before Lueders was the first woman to oversee human spaceflight at NASA, Lueders managed the Commercial Crew program. What the two units will do, ESDMD will oversee the development of programs critical to Project Artemis and ultimately manned spaceflight to Mars. Meanwhile, its counterpart will focus on launching activities, including those involving the International Space Station, with a view to the moon’s missions later.
According to NASA, the reorganization is ultimately about looking forward to the next 20 years. The new structure will allow one unit to focus on human spaceflight while the other builds future space systems. In this way, the agency says that there will be a constant cycle of development and operations to help it move forward with its space exploration goals.
“This reorganization places NASA and the United States successfully, while venturing further into the cosmos than ever before, while supporting the continued commercialization of space and research on the International Space Station,” Nelson said. “It will also enable the United States to maintain its leadership for decades to come.”
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial staff, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we can earn an affiliate commission.