The NASA official who managed the first private crew flight in space last month has been promoted to become the first woman to direct human space flights, the agency said on Friday is preparing to return people to the Moon in 2024.
“Kathy Lueders has been chosen to head NASA’s Exploration and Human Operations Mission Directorate,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter.
“Kathy has successfully managed the Commercial Crew and Commercial Cargo programs and is the right person to lead HEO as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024,” he added.
Lueders, who joined NASA in 1992, oversaw the May 30 launch of two astronauts on a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station – the first commercial crew flight in space.
She has for years been in charge of the comprehensive test program for space capsules developed by SpaceX, Boeing and other companies that are partnering with NASA to build ships capable of safely transporting humans into space.
“You can never short sell this NASA and SpaceX team, they worked miracles for me,” said Lueders in a briefing before the launch last month.
NASA’s commercial space flight program development program was launched ten years ago under the administration of then president Barack Obama, marking a dramatic change for the space agency, which had previously designed and builds its own rockets and space vehicles.
NASA’s program, set by the administration of President Donald Trump, aims to place two astronauts, including the first woman, on the Moon in 2024 using the heavy SLS rocket and the Orion capsule.
But the program is behind schedule and NASA has not made the final decision on who will build the Moon lander.