William Gerstenmaier – known simply as "Gerst" within the agency – began working as an engineer at NASA in 1977 and rose to the rank of associate administrator for human exploration and operations, according to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine But that was exactly what brought him the boot.
"He's been at NASA for 42 years and we love him, and in fact we now have the opportunity to land on him the moon in 2024 because of the hard work he put into the program," Bridenstine said about Gerstenmaier in an exclusive interview with Fox News. "But sometimes we have to remember that he started at NASA at the age of two, and there's a time in every career when it's time to move on."
Asked what has helped Gerstenmaier specifically to downgrade him, Bridenstine said, "I do not think he did anything, I just think it is time for a new leadership. "
Eddie Bernice Johnson, chair of the Texas Science, Space and Technology Committee, said she was taken aback by the decision to abruptly remove someone with Gerstenmaier's institutional knowledge.  "The Trump Administration's ill-defined crash program to land astronauts on the moon in 2024 was difficult enough to be successful under the best of circumstances, and it seems out of place at best to discourage experienced engineers from this effort Johnson's remaining manned space programs at such a crucial time, "Johnson said.
For months The Trump administration is dull about their disappointment at the Space Agency's success story of over budgeting and lagging behind schedule.
"NASA needs to transform itself into a leaner, more accountable and agile organization," said Vice President Mike Pence in March, announcing the new Moonshot program. "If NASA is currently unable to land American astronauts on the moon within five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission."
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The organization changed on Wednesday evening when Gerstenmaier and his supreme deputy, Bill Hill, took up a special position as assistant. Former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox has been appointed deputy director of human exploration, but Bridenstine is launching a nationwide search for a permanent replacement job.
" We are moving fast towards the moon and we need a new generation of leaders to push the goal forward," said Bridenstine.
Deputy Johnson The open search was a sign that the shock was poorly planned.
"You do not change horses in the middle of the stream, or if you try, you should better keep the other horse ready," Johnson said.
NASA's new lunar action program is called Ar temis because it is the "twin sister" of the Apollo program, which reached its first lunar landing next week 50 years ago. (In ancient Greek mythology, Artemis and Apollo were the twin comrades of the god Zeus and the goddess Leto.)
Bridenstine insists that Gerstenmaier followed Artemis' accelerated timeline.
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"He helped us create this timeline. He gave us instructions that this could be achieved, "said Bridenstine. "In fact, we have the chance to land in 2024 because of his efforts [on the Moon]."
But these efforts were not enough for Gerstenmaier to keep his job. When asked if there were any more organizational changes in the pipeline, Bridenstine replied, "Not at the moment."