Major shuffle at NASA in rush to meet Trump's moon deadline

Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag. Image courtesy of NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center

Gerstenmaier started out as an engineer and eventually became the associate administrator for human exploration and operations in 2004.

"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", Bridenstine wrote in the memo.

He named Kenneth Bowersox, a former NASA astronaut who made five space shuttle flights, as the new acting associate administrator.

The NASA executive in charge of human space exploration has been ousted over disagreements on the space agency's plans to land an astronaut on the moon by 2024.

He was also leading the effort to return astronauts to the moon, which had become a priority for the Trump administration.

Bill Hill, a deputy associate administrator under Gerstenmaier, was also moved to a special assistant position under NASA's associate administrator Steve Jurczyk. "In an effort to meet this problem, I've determined to make management changes to the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate". "Given NASA is no longer pursuing the new mission directorate, Mark has opted to pursue other opportunities", Bridenstine said in a memo to employees at the time. He was hired after Pence's remarks to lead the agency's structure changes.

Several lawmakers, including Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology; and Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), chair of the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics; criticized the decision to reassign Gerstenmaier. President Donald Trump has asked the space agency to put humans back on the moon before the end of his potential second term in office, but neither the White House nor NASA has won congressional support for the plan.

Gerstenmaier appeared to favor test firing the mammoth rocket's first stage, powered by four upgraded space shuttle main engines, at NASA's Stennis Space Center in MS next year to make sure the booster met its design specifications.

San Francisco: Ahead of the upcoming 50th anniversary of mankind's first successful trip to the moon, Google has recreated the Apollo 11 rocket's command module with Augmented Reality (AR). It was soon updated with 2024 as the new target for astronauts on the moon.

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