NASA JSC's Head of Engineering Re-Assigned Days Before STS-121 Launch

Less than ayear after his first spaceflight and just one week shy of his helping to leadanother from the ground, Charles Camarda has been fired from his position asDirector, Engineering at NASA Johnson Space Center.

In an e-mail written by Camarda and obtained by collectSPACE, the astronaut praised his colleagues' preparation for STS-121 and offered his regrets that he would "not be there with my team" when Discovery launches July 1.

Camarda did not fully explain what led to his request to be let go, but wrote that he "cannot accept the methods I believe are being used by this Center to select future leaders." In addition to personnel concerns, Camarda wrote that he refused to "abandon" his position on the STS-121 Mission Management Team and asked that if he was not allowed to work the mission, that "I would have to be firedfrom my position and I was."

Sources inside the agency said that were surprised by the announcement and how quickly his reassignment was posted.

Accordingto his letter, Camarda was offered another position and he planned to"continue to support this Agency which I love and be a good teammember."

Subsequentto Camarda's e-mail being sent, a personnel announcement signed by JSC DirectorMichael Coats confirmed Camarda's re-assignment to the NASA Engineering andSafety Center (NESC), an independent organization based at Langley Reseach Center in Virginia and chartered in the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbiaaccident.

SteveAltemus, deputy director under Camarda, replaced the astronaut as Director,effective immediately.

Selected asan astronaut candidate by NASA in April 1996, Camarda flew as a missionspecialist on last year's return to flight mission, STS-114 and has logged over333 hours in space.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.