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Letter from Ron Dittemore, Space Shuttle Program Manager
The Time is Right

Ron Dittemore pictured with Michael Kostelnik at press conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. Image to left: Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore pictured with Michael Kostelnik, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs, at the press briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. Photo credit: NASA/Renee Bouchard.

In the fall of 2002, I informed the Deputy Associate Administrator for International Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs, Mr. Michael C. Kostelnik, and others at NASA Headquarters and at the Johnson Space Center that I intended to step aside as Manager, Space Shuttle Program, in early 2003. However, on February 1, 2003, all of our lives were changed in an instant. Over the past 2 months as we have tried to understand the events surrounding the loss of Columbia and her precious crew, every one of you has performed in an outstanding manner, and I have been tremendously proud to be associated with NASA and the members of the Space Shuttle Program team.

The opportunity to serve as the Manager, Space Shuttle Program, for the past 4 years has been a most rewarding experience. Together we have overcome hailstorms, dodged hurricanes, resolved numerous technical problems, experienced the joy of victory and success, and sadly, we’ve suffered the agony and pain associated with devastating loss. As a team working together in a very challenging and complex enterprise, we have mapped the earth, deployed and serviced extraordinary telescopes, conducted numerous scientific experiments, and assembled an amazing scientific laboratory in space.

It has been a tremendous honor and a pleasure to serve with such a talented and dedicated team. However, after 4 years as Program Manager and after much thought and reflection, I have determined that the time is right to move on to other opportunities and allow new leadership time to prepare, execute a successful return to flight, and continue assembly and servicing of the International Space Station. To the members of the Space Shuttle team and to my friends and co-workers at NASA, I respectfully announce my intent to step aside as Manager, Space Shuttle Program, soon after the Columbia Accident Investigation Board findings are complete and after we are well established on a path to return to flight.

I am confident that we will find the root cause of the Columbia accident, fix it, and return to flight soon. Our team is strong and vibrant. Our program and project leaders are creative and dedicated. I believe the future is bright and that our team is poised to perform at even higher levels with even greater success. The Space Shuttle is an amazing machine with extraordinary capabilities. With your leadership and dedication, this visionary transportation system will serve our nation and international partners well into the future.

Ronald D. Dittemore

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