Kathy Lueders has been selected to lead NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The appointment was announced by NASA Head, Jim Bridenstine. Lueders, who managed the inaugural private crewed flight into space last month, has been promoted to become the first female head of human spaceflight as it prepares to return people to the Moon in 2024.

Lueders, who joined NASA in 1992, oversaw the May 30 launch of two astronauts on a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station – the first ever crewed commercial flight into space. She has for years been in charge of the exhaustive testing program for space capsules developed by SpaceX, Boeing and other companies that are partnering with NASA to build vessels that can safely take humans into space.

The program to develop commercial space flight programs for NASA was launched a decade ago under the administration of former President Barack Obama, marking a dramatic change for the space agency, which had previously designed and built its own rockers and space vehicles. NASA’s schedule aims to put two astronauts, including the first women, on the Moon in 2024 using the heavy SLS rocket and the Orion capsule.


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