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The director of NASA resigned

48-year-old Sean O'Keefe, who has run NASA for the past three years, will leave his post next week to run the University of Louisiana

Avi Blizovsky

Sean O'Keefe. Official NASA photo
Sean O'Keefe. Official NASA photo

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will leave his post next week. O'Keeffe, who has run NASA for the past three years, will likely be appointed president of Louisiana State University. O'Keefe ran NASA during one of its most turbulent times, which included the Columbia shuttle disaster, serious cuts in the various budgets, as well as ambitious plans to send astronauts to the moon again, and possibly to the planet Mars.
Dave Weldon, a Republican senator, responded and said: "President George Bush will have to find a worthy and strong candidate, who will lead the American space agency in one of the most important periods. It's going to be a difficult year, and whoever steps into Shawn's shoes will have to do things as quickly as possible."
Before running NASA, the 48-year-old O'Keeffe served as the deputy secretary of the US Treasury. During George W. Bush's first term, O'Keefe served as the budget director of the Department of Defense. When the Senate confirmed his nomination to run NASA in December 2001, his main task at the time was to prudently manage the cost of the space station program, a task that was obviously pushed back by the Columbia disaster in February 2003.
Some say that O'Keefe's retirement was also expected in view of the fact that no shuttle will take off into space for more than two years and that the situation is much more difficult than the optimism that NASA tries to instill. Recently there have been rumors that the Bush administration will give O'Keefe a kick up the ass. This did not happen and O'Keeffe had to move to university.
In April, a study was conducted about the changes in organizational culture at NASA after the Columbia disaster and many problems were found, among other things it was said that the agency's employees are afraid to talk about safety issues. "The management must take command and it will start with me," O'Keefe said at the time.
O'Keefe was recently attacked for his insistence on not sending astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. As mentioned, NASA is also encountering problems in restoring the three additional shuttles to flight. The agency failed to make essential improvements recommended by the Columbia Disaster Commission of Inquiry.

I need to finance my son's college education

By Warren Leary New York Times

The director of NASA has resigned. The reason: the salary is not high enough

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe resigned yesterday. According to him, he is leaving the position, which he held for three years, in order to improve the financial situation of his family.

O'Keefe's planned retirement was widely discussed over the weekend after his candidacy for president of the University of Louisiana's main campus in Baton Rouge was revealed. The director of NASA earns $158 a year. The salary of the president of the University of Louisiana is more than 500 thousand dollars.

President Bush accepted O'Keeffe's resignation letter. In the letter, O'Keeffe stated that he would continue to perform his duties until a replacement was found, but added that he would like to leave NASA in February. "O'Keeffe has hinted to us in the past about his intention to retire," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. He added that "the president thinks he did an excellent job at NASA."

In his letter, which spanned five pages, O'Keefe wrote that the eldest of his three children should begin his studies at college next year. "I must give my children the same opportunity that my parents gave me - higher education without being forced to carry the burden of debt," he wrote. "This is the most difficult decision I have made, but I feel it is the best for the future of my family," he stated later in the letter.

O'Keefe was sworn in as the tenth administrator of the US space agency on December 21, 2001. As an expert in the fields of management and accounting, he was required to reduce the increasing costs of the International Space Station and other projects.

A year after the changes began, NASA faced one of the most difficult challenges in its history - the shuttle Columbia exploded upon its return to Earth, and the seven astronauts on board were killed. The accident, which was partly attributed to management problems at NASA, led to extensive changes in the areas of safety and operations, which were initiated by O'Keefe.

"I was sorry to hear about O'Keefe's decision. He has been an efficient and visionary administrator for the past three years," said Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the House of Representatives' Science Committee. "Sean is leaving NASA in a better state than when he received it."

House of Representatives member Bart Gordon, a member of the Science Committee, said that the next CEO will be faced with returning the shuttle fleet to operation, and it will be necessary to reach a budget compromise that fits President Bush's vision of sending astronauts to the moon and Mars.

Senior officials at NASA said that the White House appointed a committee to look for suitable candidates for the position. According to space policy experts, the list of candidates includes General Ronald T. Kadish, who until September ran the Missile Defense Agency; Former member of the House of Representatives Robert Walker, who served as the chairman of the science committee and was a member of the president's committee on lunar and Mars exploration; and former astronauts.

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