NASA reorganizes to align with revamped mission

NASA officials announced a restructuring of the agency's headquarters offices Thursday aimed at advancing space exploration technologies and the science of flight.

NASA Deputy Administrator Frederick D. Gregory said the move indicated NASA management's belief that NASA's structure "should reflect the priorities and objectives of our commitments."

The restructuring creates a new Office of Exploration Systems and an Office of Aeronautics. Exploration Systems will set priorities for space vehicle research and direct the identification, development and validation of space flight systems, including the newly proposed "crew exploration vehicle."

Earlier this week, President Bush announced a major space initiative predicated on the creation of the new vehicle, which would replace the aging space shuttle. Bush said he would propose to Congress a 5 percent annual increase in NASA's budget beginning in fiscal 2005. NASA's current annual budget is $15.5 billion. The president also said he would instruct the agency to refocus its priorities on creating the vehicle, and, ultimately, on building a base on the moon. The base would serve as a launching point for an eventual mission to Mars.

The restructuring announced Thursday was the first step in meeting the president's objectives.

Craig Steidle, a retired Navy rear admiral, will head the Office of Exploration Systems. Steidle most recently worked as an aerospace consultant, after retiring three years ago from the Navy, where he was chief aerospace engineer and vice commander of the Naval Air Systems Command.

The new Office of Aeronautics is a trimmed-down version of NASA's former Office of Aerospace Technology. Several of the old office's functions, including research involving space transportation and space vehicle launching, will move into the aeronautics office.

"This will reemphasize aeronautics," said J. Victor Lebacqz, who takes over the former acting associate administrator of the aerospace technology office, who will lead the new aeronautics office. Lebacqz said the president's fiscal 2005 budget proposal would maintain funding for aeronautics research.

Gregory, who coordinated the restructuring, said that the new setup "gives us the ability to specifically focus on aeronautics and exploration systems."

At the same time, the office of the NASA administrator will be reorganized with four new independent offices: the Office of the Chief Engineer; the Office of Health and Medical Systems; the Office of the Chief Information Officer; and the Office of Institutional and Corporate Management.

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