Main Engine Cut Off

Kathy Lueders Named Head of Human Spaceflight at NASA

After the bizarre departure of Doug Loverro and the epic triumph of SpaceX DM-2, this news makes perfect sense and I, like damn near everyone who follows space, am thrilled to see it.

Lueders has been the manager of the Commercial Crew Program since 2014, and has been a calm and steady voice from NASA on the program all along. She gets to take all of her experience and lessons learned from Commercial Crew and apply that to all of NASA’s human spaceflight goals.

The biggest chunk of that work will be Artemis. Almost every single piece of the Artemis architecture—the only holdouts being the long-standing and staggeringly large SLS and Orion programs—is being developed and acquired in a style inspired by Commercial Cargo and Crew, which Lueders has been so influential on and familiar with.

That includes both Gateway modules already contracted, Gateway Logistics Services provided by SpaceX, the all-important Human Landing System vehicles, and it certainly feels like just a matter of time until we see the complementary crew program to pair with the cargo provided by Gateway Logistics Services.

So yes, she is precisely the right woman to lead this work, and it states loud and clear which direction NASA is headed in the future. Importantly, while the NASA Administrator is nominated by the President and, in the recent era, changes out with each new administration, the directorate heads usually have much more longevity.

Before the Loverro side quest, our beloved Bill Gerstenmaier filled this role from 2005 to 2019. That’s 3 Presidential administrations that were not exactly the most friendly nor did they agree much on NASA policy and direction, and yet Gerstenmaier was there the whole time.