By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX has tapped NASA’s former human spaceflight boss Kathy Lueders to help oversee development of the company’s moon and Mars rocket called Starship, a person familiar with the hire said on Monday.
Lueders, the second former NASA human spaceflight chief to retire and move to SpaceX in recent years, represents another key hire for the company as it races to develop and use Starship for landing NASA astronauts on the moon within the next decade.
The source who confirmed the hiring of Lueders, first reported by CNBC, spoke on condition of anonymity. SpaceX did not immediately return a request for comment.
Lueders spent 31 years at NASA and retired in April. In 2021, she was the NASA source selection official who picked SpaceX’s Starship rocket for a $3 billion Artemis contract to land the first U.S. astronauts on the moon since 1972. Private moon landers from other companies are to be picked in a later contract program.
Lueders was among a group of officials credited with leading the U.S. space agency’s shift to public-private contracting models, a cost-saving approach under which NASA helps fund development of private spacecraft and purchases rides for astronauts as a service, instead of managing the spacecraft as the spacecraft owner.
As the head of NASA’s human spaceflight wing, Lueders oversaw development of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the company’s flagship cargo and astronaut taxi that has become the agency’s primary ride to and from the International Space Station.
A major agency reorganization later in 2021 moved Lueders away from overseeing the moon program and placed her as NASA’s space operations chief, a post with oversight on ISS activities.
At SpaceX, Lueders will join her former NASA boss Bill Gerstenmaier, who in 2020 retired from the agency as its human spaceflight chief to join SpaceX for a similar Starship role.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Will Dunham)