Gerstenmaier Joins SpaceX As Consultant

Gerstenmaier Joins SpaceX As Consultant

Bill Gerstenmaier, who for decades led NASA human spaceflight programs, has joined SpaceX as a consultant.  He retired from NASA in December after being dismissed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in July as the head of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) just as the Artemis program was getting underway.

Gerstenmaier’s ouster caught the space community by surprise. Also dismissed was Bill Hill, who headed Exploration Systems Development within HEOMD.  Bridenstine insisted that while it may have seemed abrupt to outsiders, the decision reflected growing concerns about cost and schedule overruns in programs they oversaw.

One of Gerstenmaier’s deputies, former astronaut Ken Bowersox, was immediately assigned to take over as acting head of HEOMD while Gerstenamier was reassigned to an advisory position to NASA’s Deputy Administrator.  It took three months for Bridenstine to choose a successor, Doug Loverro, who did not report for duty until December 3. Gerstenmaier left the agency on December 6.

Michael Sheetz at CNBC broke the news of Gerstenmaier’s new job today.  SpaceX confirms that Gerstenmaier now is a consultant on SpaceX’s reliability team.

Many in the space community responded on Twitter with delight including former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Russian space agency Director General Dmitry Rogozin.

SpaceX founder and Chief Designer Elon Musk routinely thanks NASA for saving the company a decade ago by awarding it a contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2008 when the company was struggling with its original rocket, Falcon 1.  At the time, Gerstenmaier headed the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), which managed the commercial cargo program. SpaceX moved on to build Falcon 9 and the Dragon spacecraft, launching its first cargo mission to the International Space Station in 2012.  Two years later, NASA chose SpaceX as one of the two commercial crew providers.  Its first crewed launch to ISS is expected in the second quarter of this year.

Gerstenmaier — or Gerst as he is better known — joined NASA in 1977 and spent most of his career on the human spaceflight side of the agency working first on the space shuttle and space station programs.  After the Cold War ended and the U.S.-Russian relationship thawed, he headed operations for the Shuttle/Mir program where U.S. astronauts visited Russia’s space station Mir and Russian cosmonauts flew on the U.S. shuttle.  He became manager of Space Shuttle Program Integration, deputy manager and then manager of the International Space Station (ISS) program, and in 2005 became Associate Administrator for SOMD at NASA Headquarters.  When it merged with the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in 2011, he took over as Associate Administrator of the new Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD).

He is very highly respected in the space community and many of those commenting on Twitter today see this as a big win for SpaceX as it begins missions to ISS with Crew Dragon and, if it sticks to its plans, the Moon and Mars with Starship.


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