I have a theory about this.
William Gerstenmaier, the longtime associate administrator for human exploration at NASA, has been reassigned to a new role as special adviser to NASA’s deputy administrator. The move signifies something of a demotion for Gerstenmaier at the agency. As head of the human exploration division, Gerstenmaier has overseen many of NASA’s biggest projects for human spaceflight, such as the operations on the International Space Station; the development of NASA’s next big rocket, the Space Launch System; and the Commercial Crew program, an initiative to launch astronauts to the ISS using commercial spacecraft.
Going from managing billions in project assets and hundreds of employees to an “advisor” means something wasn’t right. Gerstenmaier was the modern day “Right Stuff”. He knew what he was doing and was well respected. And he probably told the truth about a trip to the Moon by 2024.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said it very well.
The Trump Administration’s ill-defined crash program to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024 was going to be challenging enough to achieve under the best of circumstances. Removing experienced engineering leadership from that effort and the rest of the nation’s human spaceflight programs at such a crucial point in time seems misguided at best.
I will be more blunt. Going to the Moon by 2024 is not safe. We do not have a lander. We do not have a heavy lift vehicle. We do not have a service module. We don’t even have a completed Command Module. Going to the Moon with that schedule and the current resources means cutting corners and it’s not safe.
Gerstenmaier has been replaced with a yes man. That isn’t safe either. Returning to the moon safely is not an option. It is the mission.