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NASA appoints new space station programme manager

NASA has named Joel Montalbano as manager of the International Space Station Programme following the retirement of Kirk Shireman who held the position since 2015.

Montalbano's appointment was effective from June 29, following the June 26 retirement of Shireman, NASA said on Tuesday.

Shireman's exit came barely a month after NASA's head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, abruptly stepped down from his position at the agency, citing a "mistake" that happened earlier this year.

Following Loverro's exit, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine selected Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders to be the agency's next Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate.

Montalbano had served as deputy programme manager for NASA's space station programme since 2012, a role in which he shared responsibility with the program manager for day-to-day management, working across organisations and with NASA centers, other government agencies, and partners to ensure seamless and efficient space station integration.

"Joel has the experience and leadership we need to guide the station program during this exciting and dynamic time of human spaceflight," Lueders said in a statement.

"We look forward to seeing Joel continue to make great contributions to the International Space Station and know he'll do a great job leading the program."

Montalbano led integration and definition of projects to use the unique microgravity laboratory in space to lay the groundwork for future explorers, such as the Artemis program astronauts who will include the first woman and next man to land on the Moon in 2024.

His efforts also helped expand scientific research, engineering technology development, and human mission operations, NASA said.

Prior to becoming deputy program manager, Montalbano was the director of NASA's Human Space Flight Programme in Russia from 2008 to 2012.