Meet NASA's New Leader of Human Spaceflight Operations

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine named Douglas Loverro as the agency’s new associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate on Oct. 16, 2019.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine named Douglas Loverro as the agency’s new associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate on Oct. 16, 2019. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA's human spaceflight program just got a new leader. 

Agency chief Jim Bridenstine announced last week that Douglas Loverro has been named the agency’s new associate administrator for its Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate — a position that puts him in charge of safely landing NASA astronauts on the moon in 2024 as well as the upcoming commercial crew missions to the International Space Station

Although he's new to NASA, he has decades of experience in national security space, has fostered international cooperation in space exploration, and is a vocal advocate of the Space Force. 

"I worked with Doug for many years on the Hill, and he is a respected strategic leader in both civilian and defense programs, overseeing the development and implementation of highly complicated systems," Bridenstine said in a statement. "He is known for his strong, bipartisan work and his experience with large programs will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical time in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both Commercial Crew and Artemis."

Related: How Space Station and Moon Missions Will Prep Astronauts for Mars

Before coming to NASA, Loverro spent three decades working for the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office, where he developed policies for national security-related space activities. He was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy from 2013 to 2017. Since then, he has operated an independent consulting firm.

"I have worked with Doug with space related matters for many years. He is highly qualified, competent, and will do a superb job leading NASA's human exploration directorate," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said in the statement. 

Loverro holds a Master's of Science in Physics from the University of New Mexico in addition to his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He also has a Master's of Political Science from Auburn University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of West Florida.

At NASA, he will be taking over the job of former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox, who has been serving at the acting associate administrator since July. Before Bowersox received that temporary position, it was held by Bill Gerstenmaier for nearly a decade. Bowersox is now back to his old job as the deputy associate administrator.

Gerstenmaier became the associate administrator for space operations in 2005, and his title changed in 2011 when NASA merged its Exploration Systems Directorate and Space Operations Directorate to create the new Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD). In July, Gerstenmaier left HEOMD to serve as a special advisor to NASA's Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard

"I want to thank Ken and the entire NASA team for their commitment since I arrived at NASA. We have made incredible progress," Bridenstine said. "Ken and Doug are respected members of their fields and will continue to lead these great people at the agency," he added. "We have a lot of work to accomplish to safely get humans flying from America again and I believe we have the leadership to get it done."

Now that Loverro has been named the new associate administrator, NASA expects to soon be able to come up with a new targeted launch date for the long-overdue first flight of its Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket, Bowersox said at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight on Oct. 10. The SLS rocket, which is supposed to launch astronauts to the moon, is currently scheduled for a test flight sometime in 2020, though Bowersox said it will likely slip to mid-2021.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.