NASA's human spaceflight chief has resigned just days before the agency is slated to launch astronauts into space from American soil for the first time in almost a decade.
Douglas Loverro, who assumed the role of associate administrator for human exploration and operations seven months ago, stepped down from his position on Monday, Politico first reported.
NASA confirmed Loverro's departure from the agency to The Hill in a statement.
"Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Doug Loverro has resigned from his position effective Monday, May 18," NASA said.
NASA said that Loverro "made significant progress" while in his post and moved the agency closer to its goal of "landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024."
Loverro explained his exit from the agency in a letter that was obtained by Politico.
"The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly," Loverro wrote. "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."
Ken Bowersox – currently the deputy associate administrator for the office – will become acting associate administrator. Bowersox is a retired U.S. Naval pilot and has been at NASA for over two decades, according to the agency.
"He is an accomplished astronaut and a veteran of five space shuttle missions and commander on the International Space Station," NASA said. "Bowersox has previously led HEO in a time of transition, and NASA has the right leadership in place to continue making progress on the Artemis and Commercial Crew programs."
Next Wednesday, May 27, NASA is expected to send two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. It's the first time since 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle program, that astronauts will be sent space-bound from the U.S.