NASA human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders to retire at end of April

NASA human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders will retire at the end of April 2023 after 31 years with the agency. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Kathy Lueders will step down as associate administrator of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate at the end of April, the agency announced on Monday (March 27). 

Five-time astronaut Ken Bowersox will succeed her, transitioning from his current position as the directorate's deputy head.

"Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime, and I look forward to seeing all the wonderful things NASA and the Space Operations team will accomplish!" Lueders said in a tweet on Tuesday (March 28).

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"Kathy is a tremendous public servant and a trailblazer, not only serving as the first woman to head space operations for NASA and the first woman to manage our human spaceflight program, but also championing a new way of doing business in low Earth orbit," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement

"The public-private commercial model Kathy and her team helped pioneer will return humanity to the moon and prepare us for our next giant leap: the first crewed missions to Mars," Nelson added.

Lueders began her 31-year NASA career at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, where she served as depot manager for the space shuttle's orbital maneuvering and reaction control systems. She served in various positions in the International Space Station (ISS) program and also managed NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

She earned a variety of awards and recognitions during her time at NASA, including the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award and the Distinguished Service Medal. Lueders also won a 2020 Woman in Aerospace Leadership Award, a 2021 American Astronomical Society Spaceflight Achievement Award and a 2022 Space Pioneer Award from the National Space Society. She was inducted into the Space and Satellite Hall of Fame in 2021.

Bowersox will take over as head of Space Operations on May 1. His space experience includes commanding ISS Expedition 6 and two missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Back on Earth, Bowersox has also served as director of flight operations at NASA's Johnson Space Center and was chair of the Human Exploration and Operations Committee on the NASA Advisory Council.

"Ken has been instrumental to advancing NASA's goals and missions in low-Earth orbit and beyond, and I know Space Operations will be in good hands under his leadership," Nelson said. 

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Josh Dinner
Writer, Content Manager

Josh Dinner is's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.