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NASA reorganizes for new mission

From The space agency created an Office of Exploration Systems and other units to support President Bush's new initiative.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe explains the space agency's new initiative in a televised talk to NASA employees.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe explains the space agency's new initiative in a televised talk to NASA employees.NASA TV
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NASA managers reorganized the space agency on Thursday in direct response to President Bush's direction that NASA focus on exploration of the moon and Mars, using robots and eventually humans.

The Office of Exploration Systems was created and will be headed up by Craig Steidle, a retired Navy rear admiral who served as chief aerospace engineer and vice commander of the Naval Air Systems Command.

The office will be responsible for developing the systems that will be required to return humans to the moon between 2015 and 2020 and then allow them to venture on to Mars.

Specific projects entrusted to the new enterprise will be the Crew Exploration Vehicle — which will ferry astronauts into and out of low Earth orbit — as well as new power generating and propulsion technologies.

The space nuclear power technology research under Project Prometheus also will be folded into the new Exploration Systems office.

"We're up to this challenge," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told employees on Thursday during a nationwide broadcast on NASA TV. "This is the team to make it happen, and we are the folks that have been charged to do this on behalf of the American public."

NASA's aeronautical research will continue, O'Keefe said, under the direction of Victor Lebacqz, who will lead the newly formed Office of Aeronautics.

The aviation and space technology research previously had been combined in one office.

Four new offices
NASA also on Thursday announced the creation of four new offices within the administrator's organizational chart to "allow for more independent leadership in areas vital to the execution of NASA's vision and mission," according to a news release.

The offices include:

  • Chief Engineer: Will ensure that agency development efforts and mission operations are planned and conducted using sound engineering.
  • Health and Medical Systems: Will ensure the well-being of the NASA workforce and provide independent oversight authority for health care and related research.
  • Chief Information Officer: Will manage the agency's information technology investments, lead the development of a strategic plan, and create a roadmap to guide the agency's IT programs and policies.
  • Institutional and Corporate Management: Will lead the oversight of NASA's management systems, institutional and corporate activities.

Even as NASA officials were setting up the agency for the long road ahead, O'Keefe said the White House was putting together a commission that will look into the best way to implement the new space vision.

O'Keefe said a key area of concern for the commission, which will be led by former Air Force Secretary Pete Aldridge, is attracting the best people to work for NASA and retaining those who feel they might be better off working elsewhere.

The Aldridge commission should be up and running soon and is expected to have its report ready by mid- to late summer, O'Keefe said.