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NASA has selected Catherine Koerner as manager of the agency’s Orion Program. In this role, she will be responsible for the development and operations of NASA’s newest spacecraft that will carry astronauts on Artemis missions to the Moon and return them safely to Earth. Koerner begins her new position effective Tuesday, Sept. 8.
“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," Koerner said. "Next year we’ll be launching the Artemis I test flight – a major milestone – and the first of the Artemis mission series on our way to putting the first woman and the next man on the Moon.”
Koerner will be based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. Most recently, she led the Human Health and Performance Directorate team at Johnson, which works to optimize astronaut performance and reduce health risks associated with human spaceflight. Koerner’s experience includes roles as flight director, space shuttle manager for the Missions Operations Directorate, deputy manager of the Vehicle Office and manager of the Transportation Integration Office for the International Space Station Program.
“Cathy brings to Orion a diverse background in engineering and human health, two key components for the Artemis program that will see the spacecraft send our astronauts to the Moon, ushering in a sustainable presence on the lunar surface,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. “Working with our partners, her leadership will guide the program to achievements that will inspire and benefit humanity.”
A native of Schaumburg, Illinois, Koerner earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Throughout her career, Koerner has been recognized for her achievements, earning multiple awards and commendations, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, JSC Superior Achievement Award, and the JSC Director’s Commendation Award.
“Cathy brings 30 years of human spaceflight experience to the challenging task of managing the Orion program,” said Johnson Center Director Mark Geyer. “I am confident she will lead Orion into flight and into a sustainable future.”
As the Orion program manager, Koerner will be responsible for oversight of design, development and testing of the Orion spacecraft, as well as spacecraft manufacturing already under way at locations across the country and in Europe for ESA (European Space Agency).
Koerner succeeds Mark Kirasich, who is currently leading NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Howard Hu, who was acting Orion program manager, will serve as Orion deputy program manager.
Orion, the Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems programs are foundational elements of NASA’s Artemis program. Artemis I will be the first integrated flight test of Orion and the SLS next year. Artemis II will follow as the first human mission, taking astronauts farther into space than ever before. On Artemis III, astronauts will set foot on the Moon by 2024.