NASA stated on September 21 that it is splitting the human spaceflight mission directorate into two groups, one for space operations and another for the exploration systems development, undoing a ten-year merger of two comparable agencies.
NASA officials stated that Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) was going to be divided into two entities at a town hall meeting. The Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, for example, will be in charge of designing programs for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration mission as well as future Mars exploration. The Space Operations Mission Directorate, on the other hand, was going to be in control of the International Space Station and efforts to commercialize low-Earth orbit.
The Space Operations directorate will be led by Kathy Lueders, who has been the assistant administrator in charge of the HEOMD since 2020 June, while NASA has appointed Jim Free to be able to lead Exploration Systems Development. Free was the ex-director of Glenn Research Center and afterwards worked for HEOMD as the deputy associate administrator before resigning in 2017. He had most recently worked as a leadership and organizational consultant, as well as chairing the NASA Advisory Council’s technology and innovation committee.
At the town hall gathering, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson declared, “This restructuring is about the sustainability of space exploration.” “It’s all about putting NASA in the best possible position to succeed. The creation of two independent mission directorates guarantees that these crucial areas are overseen separately.”
When asked what problems the agency was trying to remedy with this move, Nelson said HEOMD had grown too big. In a media interview after the town hall meeting, he added, “The existing or prior HEO is approximately half the budget of NASA.” “To run the respective responsibilities, you need the capacity of two bright people.”
Human spaceflight programs account for 45 percent of fiscal year 2021 budget of the NASA Agency, split between both the Exploration and Space Operations budget areas. However, that number has stayed constant for the last decade, fluctuating between 44 and 47 percent.
The balance of expenditure between exploration as well as space operations, on the other hand, has shifted. Exploration funding has risen dramatically in the previous 5 years, from only over $4 billion in the financial year 2016 to over $6.5 billion in the fiscal year 2021, as NASA invests in new Artemis initiatives such as the lunar Gateway as well as Human Landing System. However, since funding on the commercial crew development has decreased, spending on space operations has decreased from just around $5 billion in the year 2016 to only under $4 billion in the year 2021.
During a town hall meeting, Pam Melroy, who works as the NASA Deputy Administrator noted, “The redesign of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate is going to assist safely and effectively manage this rise in scope.” “We have the chance to better match our organizational structure with rising LEO operations and developmental exploration architecture, and ensuring the workforce possesses a focused supervision team in place to the executive for mission success.”