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Sources: NASA chief to resign

O'Keefe to become chancellor of LSU

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An LSU official speaks about NASA's Sean O'Keefe, who is expected to become the university's chancellor.
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Sean O'Keefe

(CNN) -- NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe will announce his resignation Monday, CNN has learned.

Sources inside NASA told CNN on Sunday that O'Keefe will accept an offer from Louisiana State University to be its chancellor.

O'Keefe's decision, the sources said, was made for personal and financial reasons -- the LSU job pays significantly more money than the NASA job. O'Keefe's eldest daughter will soon head to college.

The sources did not detail a time frame for O'Keefe's departure. He had previously worked at the Office of Management and Budget and as a professor of business and public policy at Syracuse University.

O'Keefe, a Louisiana native, moved to NASA in December 2001 and was expected to be a transitional figure, in place for the short term to repair budget strains created by work on the international space station.

Just over a year later, however, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry, and O'Keefe was thrust into a long-term investigation and reorganization of NASA operations.

The shuttle fleet has been grounded since the Columbia disaster. (Special Report)

In August 2003, the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that insulating foam flew off the shuttle's external fuel tank during liftoff, striking and cracking a panel on the orbiter's wing.

The Columbia report, seven months in the making, described an agency bureaucracy compromised by lax safety standards, slipshod management and dwindling funds as significant factors in the disaster.

"NASA's organizational culture had as much to do with this accident as foam did," the report said.

O'Keefe said at the time that the board's report would "serve as NASA's blueprint. We have accepted the findings and will comply with the recommendations to the best of our ability."

O'Keefe recently announced that the next space shuttle flight to the space station is scheduled for May.

Last week, NASA issued an interim report on its "return-to-flight" implementation plan, with managers saying progress continues but that there is still much work to be done before the shuttle Discovery's scheduled mission. (Full story)

In January, President Bush unveiled an ambitious plan to return Americans to the moon by 2020 and use the mission as a stepping stone for future manned trips to Mars and beyond.

Bush proposed spending $12 billion over the next five years on the effort. But some in Congress questioned whether the funding would be enough to achieve the president's goals. (Full story)

In June, NASA's aim to explore the moon and Mars moved forward, with O'Keefe announcing a restructuring effort to make NASA "sustainable and affordable." (Full story)

Last week, a much-anticipated report on the future of the Hubble Space Telescope recommended that NASA dispatch a space shuttle mission to service it soon after the shuttle fleet is safely returned to flight.

The conclusions contradicted O'Keefe's stated position, which is that the space agency will no longer conduct Hubble missions due to safety concerns. (Full story)

O'Keefe has indicated that all shuttles must dock with the international space station, which would provide a haven to the astronauts for up to two months in the event of damage to the shuttle.

That policy precludes any shuttle missions to Hubble, which orbits in a different path from the station. O'Keefe's decision was essentially a death sentence for the telescope, which, without servicing, will likely fall into disrepair within a couple of years.

CNN's Miles O'Brien contributed to this report.

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