WASHINGTON ̵ The long-time leader of NASA's spaceflight programs has been replaced as agency careers to meet President Trump's ambitious goal of bringing American astronauts back to the Moon for five years, a big shakeup that's terrible in the space of the community.
William Gerstenmaier – known within the agency as simple "Gerst" – began working in NASA in 1977 as an engineer and rose to the rank of associate administrator for human exploration and operations in 2004. But according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, surely the bona fides have got him boot.
"He was in NASA for 42 years and we love him, and in fact, we have the opportunity to arrive in the Month in the year 2024 because of the hard work he put into the program," Bridenstine says of Gerstenmaier in an exclusive Fox News interview. "But sometimes we have to remember, he started working at NASA when I was 2 years old, and had time in every race when it was time to move on."
William Gerstenmaier, seen here in November 2018, was renamed as an associate administrator for NASA's human exploration.
(Sergei Savostyanov / TASS by Getty Images, File)
When pressed about what Gerstenmaier specifically demoted his demotion, Bridenstine said, "I do not think there is anything he does not do I thought it was time for new leadership. "
House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, was angry at the decision to abolish a person with a degree of institutional knowledge of Gerstenmaier.
"The crash program that the Trump Administration has not identified in order to land astronauts in the Moon in 2024 will be enough challenge to achieve under the best conditions. The removal of experienced engineering leadership from that effort and the rest of the human spaceflight program of the country at a crucial point in time seem to have been wrong, "says Johnson.
For months, Trump management has become dull of its failure in the track record of the space agency running on the budget and behind the schedule.
"NASA must transform itself into a more leaner, more accountable, and faster organization," Vice President Mike Pence said in March when he announced the new moonshot program. "If current NASA is able to land on American astronauts for the Month within five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission."
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The organization changed on Wednesday night when Gerstenmaier and his top deputy, Bill Hill, returned to special assistant positions. NASA's former astronaut Ken Bowersox was named after the head of human exploration, but Bridenstine is launching a nationwide search to find a permanent
" We are moving quickly to go to the Moon We need a new generation of step leaders and move on to goals, "said Bridenstine.
Rep Johnson argued that open search was a sign that shakeup was less knowledgeable.
"You do not change the horses in the middle of the stream, or if you try to do it, it's better that other horses are ready," Johnson said.
NASA's new NASA program is named Ar temis because it is the "twin sister" of the Apollo program that earned the first lunar landing 50 years ago next week. (In ancient Greek mythology, Artemis and Apollo were the twin goddess Zeus and the goddess Leto.)
Bridenstine said that Gerstenmaier was riding on the accelerated timeline of Artemis.
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"He helped us create this timeline. He gave us this guide that can be achieved," Bridenstine says. "In fact, we have a chance to land [on the Moon] in 2024 because of his efforts."
But Gerstenmaier's efforts were not enough to keep his job. When asked if there were other organizational changes in the works, Bridenstine replied: "Not at this time."