NASA administrator Richard Truly, the ex-astronaut who revived the shuttle program after the Challenger disaster, has been fired by President Bush.
"He got canned and doesn't know why," a NASA source close to Truly said Wednesday. "He's shocked."
The decision to dump Truly was made by Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle and new White House chief of staff Samuel Skinner, the source said.
Truly told the Associated Press that he hadn't planned to resign, "but the president decided to make a change."
The firing saddened Rep. George Brown, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, who said Truly liked his job and didn't want to give it up.
"It troubles me to see him leave," Brown, D-Calif., said. "He was doing a good job, and I'm going to miss him."
NASA sources said Truly has known for two weeks that he was going to be axed. His resignation was requested Monday during a White House visit with Bush. Truly told the president he will remain at NASA until April 1.
Bush did not reveal why he accepted Truly's resignation "with regret," and said Truly's most notable contribution was restoring the shuttle program after the Challenger disaster in 1986.
Bush also praised Truly for commanding two of NASA's early shuttle missions: the shuttle program's second flight (in 1981) and the spaceship's first night launch and landing (in 1983).