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NASA executive resigns weeks after its appointment to direct the Lunar Landing Plan for 2024



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A leading NASA employee hired in April to set the strategy for the return of astronauts to the moon by 2024, has resigned the lunar initiative.

Mark Sirangelo, who was named Assistant to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine six weeks ago, left the agency when NASA abandoned a restructuring plan due to a cool reception on Capitol Hill, Bridenstine said in a statement.

Two space-related and situation-aware individuals said Sirangelo had been escorted Wednesday from NASA headquarters in Washington after resigning.

His departure came after lawmakers rejected NASA's proposal to set up a separate directorate within the space agency to monitor future lunar missions and eventually develop human exploration of Mars.

"The proposal was not accepted at this time, so we will maintain our current organizational structure," said Bridenstine. "Given that NASA is no longer pursuing the new mission directorate, Mark has decided to take other opportunities." Last week, the Trump administration called on Congress to increase NASA spending next year by $ 1

.6 billion as a "down payment" for the accelerated target of landing Americans on the moon by 2024, more than half a century after the end of the US Apollo moon program.

The latest initiative was named Artemis, after the goddess of hunting and the moon in Greek mythology and the twin sister of Apollo.

NASA's goal was to return manned spacecraft to the lunar surface by 2028, after a "gateway" station had been launched into lunar orbit by 2024. The prospect of additional funding, however, met with little enthusiasm among the appropriators of the congress.

The two knowledgeable people said Sirangelo's fall had been sealed by growing skepticism that 2024 would be a realistic deadline for moon landings.

In his statement, Bridenstine said the agency is still investigating what organizational changes "are necessary to maximize efficiency and reach the final state of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024".

$ 1.6 billion left, we will use the previous plan, which was scheduled for 2028, "the NASA chief told reporters at a press conference earlier in the day.

NASA announced Thursday that it had selected the space company Maxar Technologies Inc as the first contractor to build the Gateway Outpost.

Reporting by Joey Roulette at Cape Canaveral, Florida; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Steve Gorman and Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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