NASA’s chief of human exploration has resigned just days before the first astronaut launch in nearly a decade from Kennedy Space Center, the AP reports. The space agency notified employees of the news Tuesday. Douglas Loverro, whose resignation took effect Monday, joined NASA last October. He is a former Defense Department and National Reconnaissance Office manager, specializing in space security matters for three decades. NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs would only say Loverro decided to resign and, beyond that, the agency cannot discuss personnel issues. Sources tell SpaceNews Loverro and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine differed over aspects of the space exploration program, while sources tell the Washington Post Loverro had broken a rule when NASA procured a spacecraft that could land humans on the moon.
"It had nothing to do with commercial crew,” Loverro tells the Post. “It had to do with moving fast on Artemis [NASA's project to return humans to the moon], and I don’t want to characterize it in any more detail than that." The surprise announcement comes just eight days before SpaceX attempts to launch its first astronauts under NASA’s commercial crew program. Liftoff is scheduled for May 27. Besides overseeing SpaceX and Boeing's effort to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, Loverro was in charge of NASA's Artemis moon-landing program. Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, NASA announced the three winning corporate teams that will develop lunar landers for astronauts. Former space shuttle commander Ken Bowersox, Loverro's deputy, will resume his role as acting associate administrator of human exploration and operations. (Read more NASA stories.)