iss floating in space

Nasa splits human spaceflight department in two ahead of Moon mission

Image credit: Dreamstime

Nasa has announced it is splitting its human spaceflight operations into two departments; one that is tasked with future missions to the Moon and Mars, and another that will look after trips to the International Space Station (ISS).

Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson said the changes were being made because of increasing space operations in low-Earth orbit and development programs that are well underway for deep space exploration, including Artemis missions.

“Nasa has long set the vision for space exploration, not only for our nation, but also for the world,” he said.

“This reorganisation positions Nasa and the United States for success as we venture farther out into the cosmos than ever before, all while supporting the continued commercialisation of space and research on the ISS. This also will allow the United States to maintain its leadership in space for decades to come.”

The new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) directorate will manage programs critical to the Artemis mission as well as planning for Moon and Mars exploration.

“I’m excited to be back at Nasa,” said Jim Free, the Directorate’s administrator. “Working hand-in-hand with our colleagues in Space Operations, we will focus on ensuring the success of Artemis missions in the near-term while charting a clearly defined path for human exploration of Mars as our horizon goal.”

The Space Operations Mission Directorate will focus on launch and space operations, including the ISS, the commercialisation of low-Earth orbit, and eventually, sustaining operations on and around the Moon. 

“The space station is the cornerstone of our human spaceflight efforts and the commercial crew and cargo systems that support the microgravity laboratory are the building blocks to our continued success,” said its administrator Kathy Lueders.

“We’ll work closely across mission directorates to achieve even greater successes to come, including expanding the low-Earth orbit economy, launching our state-of-the-art science missions and getting ready for future operations at the Moon and Mars.”

Nasa said it plans to implement the new departments over the next few months while continuing to focus on the safety of ongoing operations for commercial crew and upcoming Artemis missions.

The announcement comes less than a week after SpaceX launched the first all-civilian crew ever to reach orbit and returned them safely to Earth.

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