NASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment

A NASA executive tasked with leading the strategy to return U.S. astronauts to the moon has stepped down just six weeks after his appointment.

Mark Sirangelo was tapped in April as special assistant to NASA Administrator Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineHow SpaceX is prospering in the year of the coronavirus pandemic The coronavirus pandemic argues for more funding for NASA's Artemis program, not less Katherine Johnson, 'hidden figure' at NASA during 1960s space race, dies at 101 MORE, but he is leaving the agency after NASA's proposal of a new organizational structure to support the lunar campaign was not accepted by Capitol Hill.

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Bridenstine announced late Thursday that because NASA is "no longer pursuing the new mission directorate," Sirangelo "has opted to pursue other opportunities."

"We are exploring what organizational changes ... are necessary to ensure we maximize efficiencies and achieve the end state of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024," Bridenstine said in a statement obtained by The Hill.

"I want to personally thank Mark for his service and his valuable contributions to the agency," Bridenstine added. 

Vice President Pence said in March that the administration is committed to landing astronauts on the moon within five years, marking the administration’s most concrete timeline to the lunar surface. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE also announced earlier this month that his budget would include an additional $1.6 billion for NASA, saying the U.S. is "going back to the Moon, then Mars."

Also on Thursday, NASA announced a $375 million contract to Maxar Technologies to develop power and propulsion capabilities for the lunar mission.

Updated at 8:43 a.m.