WASHINGTON • The Nasa official who managed the inaugural private crewed flight into space last month has been promoted to become the first female head of human space flight, the agency said on Friday, as it prepares to return people to the moon in 2024.
“Ms Kathy Lueders has been selected to lead @NASA’s Human Exploration & Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate,” Nasa head Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter.
“Kathy has successfully managed both the Commercial Crew & Commercial Cargo programmes and is the right person to lead HEO as we prepare to send astronauts to the moon in 2024,” he added.
Ms Lueders, who joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1992, oversaw the May 30 launch of two astronauts on a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station – the first crewed commercial flight into space. She has for years been in charge of the testing programme for space capsules developed by SpaceX, Boeing and other companies that are partnering Nasa to build vessels that can safely take humans into space.
“You can never sell this Nasa and SpaceX team short, they’ve accomplished miracles for me,” Ms Lueders said before last month’s launch.
The initiative to develop commercial space flight programmes for Nasa was launched a decade ago, marking a dramatic change for the space agency, which had previously designed and built its own rockets and space vehicles.
Nasa’s schedule, set by the administration of US President Donald Trump, aims to put two astronauts, including the first woman, on the moon in 2024. But the programme is behind schedule and Nasa has not made the final decision as to which company will build the moon lander.