NASA is dividing its human spaceflight division into two different organisations, one focused on large, long-term trips to the moon and Mars, and the other on the International Space Station and other operations closer to home.

The restructure, announced by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Tuesday, illustrates a shifting relationship between private businesses, including as SpaceX, that have increasingly monetized rocket travel and the federal agency that has held a monopoly on spaceflight in the United States for decades.

Nelson stated that the upheaval was also prompted by a recent surge in flights and commercial investment in low-Earth orbit, even as NASA ramps up its research of deep-space ambitions.
“Today is about more than organisational reform,” Nelson remarked during a press conference. “It’s defining NASA’s future in a rising space economy, and it’s setting the stage for the next 20 years.The change divides NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, which is now led by Kathy Leuders, into two distinct sections.

Leuders will preserve her associate administrator title as director of the new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, which will focus on NASA’s most ambitious long-term missions, such as Project Artemis, which aims to return astronauts to the moon, and future human exploration of Mars. James Free, a former deputy associate administrator who was instrumental in NASA’s space station and commercial crew and cargo projects, will return to the agency as the director of the new Space Operations Mission Directorate.

His section will mostly supervise more normal launch and spaceflight activities, such as missions involving the space station and the privatisation of low-Earth orbit, as well as the continuation of lunar operations after they are established. NASA“With two areas focued on human spaceflight, this model allows one mission directorate to operate in space while the other creates future space systems,” NASA said in a news release announcing the change.


The news came less than a week after SpaceX, which has previously flown multiple astronaut missions and cargo cargoes to the space station for NASA, sent the first all-civilian crew into orbit and safely returned them to Earth

“With two areas focused on human spaceflight, this model allows one mission directorate to operate in space while the other creates future space technologies,” NASA said in a press release.

SpaceX just launched the first all-civilian crew to orbit and safely returned them to Earth, and it has also flown multiple cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA research.

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