Goodbye, Gerst: Longtime Human Spaceflight Leader Removed From Post

William Gerstenmaier

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shook up management of the space agency’s effort to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024 on Wednesday by removing long-time associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) William Gerstenmaier from a post he held for 15 years.

“Effective immediately, Ken Bowersox will serve as Acting Associate Administrator for HEO,” Bridenstine said in a memo. “Bowersox, who previously served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for HEO, is a retired U.S. Naval Aviator with more than two decades of experience at NASA. He is an accomplished astronaut and a veteran of five space shuttle missions and served as commander on the International Space Station.”

Gerstenmaier will remain with the space agency in a new position as special adviser to Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

“I am grateful for Bill’s leadership. He has provided the strategic vision for some of NASA’s most important efforts, including the International Space Station, Commercial Crew Program, the lunar Gateway, Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft,” Bridenstine said in the memo. “We, as a nation, are thankful for his service in advancing America’s priorities and expanding the limits of science, technology, and exploration. “

The NASA Administrator also announced that Tom Whitmeyer will serve as the acting deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development within HEO. He replaces Bill Hill, who is being given a new position as special adviser to Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk.

Bridenstine’s memo is reproduced below.

Leadership Changes in Human Exploration
and Operations Mission Directorate
NASA Memo

As you know, NASA has been given a bold challenge to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, with a focus on the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars. In an effort to meet this challenge, I have decided to make leadership changes to the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate.

Effective immediately, Ken Bowersox will serve as Acting Associate Administrator for HEO. Bowersox, who previously served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for HEO, is a retired U.S. Naval Aviator with more than two decades of experience at NASA. He is an accomplished astronaut and a veteran of five space shuttle missions and served as commander on the International Space Station.

Bill Gerstenmaier, who previously served as Associate Administrator for HEO, will be detailed to a new position as special advisor to Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. I am grateful for Bill’s leadership. He has provided the strategic vision for some of NASA’s most important efforts, including the International Space Station, Commercial Crew Program, the lunar Gateway, Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. We, as a nation, are thankful for his service in advancing America’s priorities and expanding the limits of science, technology, and exploration.

Tom Whitmeyer will serve as the Acting Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development within HEO.

Bill Hill, who previously served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development within HEO, will be detailed to a new position as special advisor to Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Bill has served NASA and our country well. He has provided years of leadership and expertise in the development of Exploration Systems like the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems programs. His strategic direction played a key role during the Space Shuttle Program, helping safely complete 22 successful missions.

NASA has always been fortunate to have great talent that has served our country well. As we work to fill these key positions within HEO, we will stay mission focused knowing that exploration will go forward.

Jim Bridenstine