NASA creates two new mission directorates

Tuesday, NASA administrator Bill Nelson announced that the space agency was creating a pair of new mission directorates to see it through the next two decades. The announcement separates NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate into the new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate. According to Nelson, the changes are being made to accommodate increasing operations in low Earth orbit and the development of programs such as Artemis underway for deep space exploration.

NASA discussed its two new mission directorates and the future of the agency during an employee Townhall yesterday. Its new directorates will facilitate the Moon to Mars exploration approach, but the agency says they do so from opposite ends of the spaceflight continuum. Nelson says the reorganization of NASA positions it and the US for success as we venture further into space than the agency has gone in the past.

At the same time, the reorganization allows the space agency to continue to support the commercialization of space and research aboard the ISS. Former NASA employee Jim Free will return as associate administrator of Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. Under his leadership, ESDMD is tasked to define and manage critical systems for Artemis while planning the Moon to Mars program. Free says that he will ensure the directorate focuses on the success of Artemis while keeping human exploration of Mars as a future goal.

Kathy Lueders will be the associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate, focusing on launching space operations. Falling under her purview is the ISS, space commercialization in low Earth orbit and eventually sustained operations on and around the moon. NASA created the new directorates to ensure both critical areas have focused leadership. NASA plans to implement the new directorates in the coming months, and it has confirmed there are no changes to central roles or missions with this announcement.