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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has chosen Catherine Koerner as its next manager for the Orion Program effective last Tuesday, September 8.

As the Orion Program Manager, Koerner will be overseeing the development and operation of the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts on the future Artemis mission to and from the moon.

Catherine Koerner, Orion's New Program Manager
(Photo: Orion Spacecraft Twitter Account)

A Diverse Background in Artemis's Key Components

"I'm honored to be selected as the Orion Program Manager. Orion is a key element of the agency's Artemis infrastructure, and I look forward to leading the team responsible for developing and building America's deep space human spacecraft," Catherine Koerner said in the NASA press release. She added that the agency is looking at its Artemis I test flight next year, the first in the series to bring the next man and the first woman on the Moon.

Koerner will hold her office at the Johnson Space Center (JSC), NASA's center for human spaceflight located in Houston, Texas. Before taking up the Orion Program Manager position, Koerner previously headed the Human Health and Performance Directorate team also at JSC. Her previous post oversaw efforts to optimize astronaut performance and minimize health risks from human spaceflight.

Furthermore, Koerner has also handled positions as flight director, space shuttle manager for NASA's Missions Operations Directorate, deputy manager of the Vehicle Office, and manager of the International Space Station Program's Transportation Integration Office.

Kathy Lueders, recently-appointed Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, said that Koerner will bring a "diverse background in engineering and human health" to the Orion program, noting the two as key components for the NASA Artemis program that will send astronauts to the Moon and will pave the way for "sustainable presence on the lunar surface." She added that Koerner's leadership will guide NASA programs "to achievements that will inspire and benefit humanity."

Catherine Koerner, a Schaumberg, Illinois native, went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her bachelor's and masters in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. She was also a recipient of multiple commendations and awards throughout her career, including the JSC DIrector's Commendation Award, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.

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Orion Program

The spacecraft that will fall under Catherine Koerner's responsibilities, aside from the Orion spacecraft of the upcoming Artemis missions, will also include a variety of projects currently under development in various locations across the United States and in Europe for its European Space Agency (ESA).

Koerner will be taking over the position from Mark Kirasich, who is currently in charge of the Advanced Exploration Systems Division in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington DC. Howard Hu, who was previously the acting Orion program manager, will now be serving as the Orion deputy program manager.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) will be the space capsule that will carry the crew into space and sustain them during travel. It will be carried to space through NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift expendable rocket. As Artemis I, slated next year, will be the first integrated test flight of the Orion and the SLS, the Artemis II is expected to bring the next humans to the Moon, by 2024.

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Check out more news and information on NASA in Science Times.