Officials at the Johnson Space Center in Houston – the home of NASA's Astronaut Corps – have recently confirmed that the space agency's former Chief Astronaut, Peggy Whitson, stepped down from her position after three years, this July. The new NASA Chief Astronaut is space shuttle veteran Robert Behnken.
Whitson, who was the 13th Chief of the Astronaut Office, was appointed to her position in 2009, and was the first woman to lead the American astronauts. For most of her stay in office, Behnken served as one of her deputies, Space
“The Chief of the Astronaut Office has an unenviable job – she or he has the power to make flight assignments as well as important career appointments, but each decision is guaranteed to make one or more astronauts unhappy,” says expert Michael Cassutt.
Behnken takes over command of the Astronaut Corps at a time when many astronauts are considering parting ways with the agency, due to lack of prospects. His job will be to retain sufficient spaceflyers until the Orion space capsule enters regular use.