NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Tuesday the agency is creating two new mission directorates that will best position the agency for the next 20 years.

The move separates the agency’s current Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate into the new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate.

NASA is making the changes because of increasing space operations in low-Earth orbit and development programs well underway for deep space exploration, including Artemis missions.

Leadership will discuss the change and the future of NASA during an employee town hall broadcast live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website at noon EDT today.

Media are invited to a follow-on teleconference at 2:30 p.m., with audio streaming live online.

Both mission directorates are engineering the future of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach from different ends of the spaceflight continuum.

“NASA has long set the vision for space exploration, not only for our nation, but also for the world. This reorganization positions NASA and the United States for success as we venture farther out into the cosmos than ever before, all while supporting the continued commercialization of space and research on the International Space Station,” said Nelson. “This also will allow the United States to maintain its leadership in space for decades to come.”

Jim Free will return to the agency as associate administrator of ESDMD. The new directorate will define and manage systems development for programs critical to Artemis and plan the Moon to Mars exploration approach in an integrated manner.

“I’m excited to be back at NASA. Working hand-in-hand with our colleagues in Space Operations, we will focus on ensuring the success of Artemis missions in the near term while charting a clearly defined path for human exploration of Mars as our horizon goal,” said Free.

Kathy Lueders will serve as associate administrator of the agency’s new Space Operations Mission Directorate. This directorate will focus on launch and space operations, including the International Space Station, the commercialization of low-Earth orbit, and eventually, sustaining operations on and around the Moon.  

“The space station is the cornerstone of our human spaceflight efforts, and the commercial crew and cargo systems that support the microgravity laboratory are the building blocks to our continued success,” said Lueders. “We’ll work closely across mission directorates to achieve even greater successes to come, including expanding the low-Earth orbit economy, launching our state-of-the-art science missions, and getting ready for future operations at the Moon and Mars.”

Creating two separate mission directorates will ensure these critical areas have focused oversight teams in place to support and execute for mission success. This approach with two areas focused on human spaceflight allows one mission directorate to operate in space while the other builds future space systems, so there is a constant cycle of development and operations to advance NASA’s goals in space exploration. 

“Kathy has demonstrated exceptional leadership and overseen tremendous progress in her role as the associate administrator for human spaceflight. And we’re thrilled to welcome Jim back to the agency. Together, this dynamic duo will help forge the future of human exploration,” said Nelson.

Over the next few months, NASA will implement these new mission directorates while remaining focused on safety of ongoing operations for commercial crew and upcoming Artemis missions.

There are no changes to NASA center roles and missions as a part of this reorganization.  

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy and Associate Administrator Bob Cabana will join Nelson, Free, and Lueders during the town hall and media teleconference. Media interested in participating in the teleconference must contact Kathryn Hambleton at no later than an hour before the teleconference begins.

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