Posted by Courtney E. HowardWASHINGTON, 15 Aug. 2011. NASA officials have formed the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate. The new organization, which combines the Space Operations and Exploration Systems mission directorates, will focus on International Space Station operations and human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The directorate also will manage: commercial crew and cargo developmental programs; construction of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, a spacecraft designed to travel beyond low Earth orbit; development of a new heavy lift rocket, known as the Space Launch System; and other programs."America is opening a bold new chapter in human space exploration," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says. "By combining the resources of Space Operations and Exploration Systems, and creating the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, we are recommitting ourselves to American leadership in space for years to come."The new organization combines the talents, skills, and experiences of the two previous directorates. It integrates the operation of NASA's in-space assets and current capabilities with planning for the agency's future, including the size and type of the work force, facilities, and contracts.The HEO Mission Directorate already is supporting space station operations, although the transition will take several weeks to finalize. Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier, who previously served as the associate administrator for Space Operations, will head the new organization.