Amit Kshatriya, a decorated Indian-American software and robotics engineer was appointed as the first head of NASA’s newly-established Moon to Mars Programme that will help the agency ensure a long-term lunar presence needed to prepare for humanity’s next giant leap to the Red Planet.

Kshatriya will serve as NASA’s first head of the office, with immediate effect, the agency announced on Thursday.

The new office aims to carry out the agency’s human exploration activities on the Moon and Mars for the benefit of humanity, a NASA press release said.

“The golden age of exploration is happening right now, and this new office will help ensure that NASA successfully establishes a long-term lunar presence needed to prepare for humanity’s next giant leap to the Red Planet,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“The Moon to Mars Programme Office will help prepare NASA to carry out our bold missions to the Moon and land the first humans on Mars,” Nelson explained.

The new office resides within the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, reporting to its Associate Administrator Jim Free, it said.

As directed by the 2022 NASA Authorisation Act, the Moon to Mars Programme Office focuses on hardware development, mission integration and risk management functions for programmes critical to the agency’s exploration approach that uses Artemis missions at the Moon to open a new era of scientific discovery and prepare for human missions to Mars, according to the press release.

This includes the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, supporting ground systems, human landing systems, spacesuits, Gateway, and more related to deep space exploration.

The new office will also lead planning and analysis for long-lead developments to support human Mars missions, it said.

In his new role, Kshatriya will be responsible for programme planning and implementation for human missions to the Moon and Mars.

Kshatriya directed and provided leadership and integration for the Space Launch System, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems programmes, as well as associated Artemis Campaign Development Division initiatives linking the agency’s Moon to Mars objectives, it said.

Previously, Kshatriya served as the acting deputy associate administrator for the Common Exploration Systems Development Division.

Kshatriya began his career in the space programme in 2003, working as a software engineer, robotics engineer, and spacecraft operator primarily focused on the robotic assembly of the International Space Station.

From 2014 to 2017, he served as a space station flight director, where he led global teams in the operations and execution of the space station during all phases of flight.

In 2021, he was assigned to NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate as an assistant deputy associate administrator, where he was an integral part of the team that returned a spacecraft designed to carry humans to the Moon during the Artemis I mission.

Son of first-generation Indian immigrants to the US, Kshatriya holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, and a Master of Arts in Mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin.

Kshatriya was born in Brookfield, Wisconsin, but considers Katy, Texas, to be his hometown.

He was decorated with the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for actions as the lead flight director for the 50th expedition to the space station, as well as the Silver Snoopy — an award that astronauts bestow for outstanding performance contributing to flight safety — for his actions as lead robotics officer for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Dragon demonstration mission to the orbiting laboratory, the release added.

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