NASA’s Chief of Human Spaceflight Doug Loverro resigns days before historic crewed mission

Doug Loverro, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, has abruptly and unexpectedly resigned from his post, just days before a historic launch. Commercial Crew Demo-2 will take astronauts to the ISS aboard an American spacecraft for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired, and Loverro was deeply involved.

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. Loverro came in as head of HEO in October, following the reassignment last summer of Bill Gerstenmaier, who led it for many years and reportedly left after clashing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Ken Bowersox, a NASA veteran who briefly served as acting administrator between the tenure of the two, will take over the role for the present.

Loverro was careful to tamp down any rumors of discord surrounding his resignation, though he did not get specific. In an ominous note reportedly sent to colleagues, he wrote:

The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly. I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences.

What exactly that risk was is as yet unknown; there is no choice he made that has obviously gone sour in the last few days. Programs related to the Artemis mission, specifically the Space Launch System development process, have received pointed criticism for overspending and delays, but they predate Loverro.

The immediate effect of Loverro’s departure is difficult to calculate. His immediate duties, including issuing final OKs for the upcoming Demo-2 mission putting two astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, will be fulfilled by Bowersox. Demo-2 is scheduled for a May 27 launch.

This story is developing and updates are expected as the details of Loverro’s misjudgment emerge.