HOUSTON (AP) – The man in charge of NASA’s space shuttle program, who was one of the agency’s most recognized faces following the destruction of the shuttle Columbia, will soon resign, according to media reports.

Ron Dittemore had planned to resign earlier but postponed his departure because of the shuttle disaster and investigation, a source said Sunday.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Saturday that Dittemore is expected to announce his resignation this week, while CBS News reported his resignation would come in the near future.

The Sentinel said a search for Dittemore’s replacement is under way. In the meantime, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that the shuttle program will be headed by William Readdy, NASA’s associate administrator for spaceflight, and his deputy, Michael Kostelnik.

Dittemore, 51, originally intended to resign after Columbia completed its research flight on Feb. 1, a source told The Associated Press on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity. The source said Dittemore’s planned departure was common knowledge at NASA, and that he was going to take a job in private industry.

Facing personal grief and a public responsibility to find out what went wrong, Dittemore postponed his resignation after the shuttle disintegrated 38 miles over Texas, killing all seven astronauts.

“After the accident, it was, ‘Gosh, he’s going to have to stick around longer now,”‘ the source said.

Dittemore did not immediately respond to repeated calls to his Houston home seeking comment Sunday.

Glenn Mahone, spokesman for NASA at its Washington headquarters, and Laura Brown, spokeswoman for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the team of investigators leading the probe of the disaster, both declined to comment Sunday.

Dittemore, a 26-year veteran of NASA, provided detailed daily briefings after Columbia’s loss, patiently and candidly answering questions as engineers investigated the accident. His plain talk contrasted with NASA’s secretive, often hostile response to reporters after the 1986 Challenger explosion.

In February his boss, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, complimented Dittemore for doing an “amazing job.”

Dittemore joined NASA’s shuttle program as a propulsion systems engineer in 1977. He was selected in 1985 as a flight director and supervised 11 missions. He reached his current post in 1999.

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