Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shuttle Shutdown Resumes Friday with Job Cuts

A phased shutdown of the space shuttle program resumes Friday with a reduction of about 160 manufacturing jobs, NASA officials said today.

By the end of September, 900 out of about 12,000 shuttle program jobs will be eliminated. About 400 of those cuts are layoffs, with the remainder attrition or workers shifted by contractors to different programs.

"They are primarily manufacturing team members, and we have delivered the last pieces of hardware that those team members produce, and we don't keep them on the rolls," Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon said during a news conference at Kennedy Space Center.

"And that is in order to get our budget down to the marks and the assumptions that we had made early on," Shannon added. "We will start tomorrow and continue with the workforce reduction that we had outlined."

Congress last year asked NASA to freeze that reduction process through April 30, 2009, to keep open the option of flying shuttles after a planned retirement of the fleet in September 2010.

The pause gave the incoming Obama administration an opportunity to change policy and add to the eight missions currently on the manifest.

Obama supports adding a ninth mission if it can be flown safely by the end of 2010. The mission would deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer physics experiment to the International Space Station.

But without an infusion of money for the 2010 fiscal year - for which a detailed budget is expected to be released soon - NASA said it had no choice but to continue its gradual shutdown of shuttle operations so it could fly out its remaining missions.

"Only if we were directed to fly additional missions would we halt that activity," Shannon said.

The near-term job cuts will primarily affect facilities in New Orleans and Utah where the shuttle's external tanks and solid rocket booster, respectively, are manufactured.

Most jobs at KSC will be maintained to continue launching and processing shuttles. But the center faces the loss of an estimated 3,500 jobs once shuttles stop flying.

NASA plans to update Congress on job loss projections next month after releasing its budget.

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for space operations, said the shuttle program's plans were clear, but it was less certain how quickly jobs would ramp up for the shuttle's replacement program, called Constellation.

If $2.5 billion proposed recently by congress budget planners came through for the 2011 fiscal year, Gerstenmaier said it could allow shuttles to fly past 2010 if delays force slips in the current manifest.

Despite the shuttle program beginning to near its end, Shannon said it was a positive for NASA to transition to new goals in human spaceflight.

"At some point you have to decide whether what the shuttle was meant to do has been done, and I would submit that it has," Shannon said.

Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions and construction of the space station wouldn't have been possible without the shuttle, he noted.

"Once those things are done, they're done, and you should move on," he said. "I would submit that that time has come, and there's that realization among the team members, that we have done those things that the shuttle was uniquely capable of doing, and it's time to move on to the next system."

IMAGE NOTE: In February 2008, shuttle Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center on a mission to deliver the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. Photo credit: Associated Press.


Anonymous said...

Lay them all off, I do not make one dime off the work they are doing out there.

Anonymous said...

probably because you're on welfare...

Anonymous said...

I don't make a dime off what you do either, so you should lose your job too.

Anonymous said...

Just too bad, we are going to have a brain drain on our Space Workers here in Florida and without this experience we will never have a good work force to be trained for those critical tasks that will be required in the future for Constellation.

Anonymous said...

New minds new equipment,it's time to move on with the future. Once we get over the work fair program that the shuttle program has turned into the country's space program will get better and allow others with better idea's and motivation to take the lead.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is what the people voted for.. I am so pO'ed about the whole thing.. North Brevard will be devastated more than it already is...

NASA always reinvests the wheel every 20 years of so just to start all over, discarding their talient like some much used furniture... American TAxes at work... Good luck to all of us.. Sure wont find these wages here in Florida any time soon.. where out of here with our combined 60 years of experience...

Anonymous said...

I work on the SSME and we were told to stop work last Thursday. It’s not looking good for us, we have already had two small layoffs but this will pretty much kill us.
I just don’t understand Obama. He can give billions and billions to banks but nothing much for space programs that employ thousands of workers. I’m betting the majority of those workers were the "Responsible" type who didn’t by 800K houses they couldn’t afford etc etc. But we don’t get any considerations for saving our jobs. He decided not to continue with Griffin but has not felt the need to get a replacement or issue some sort of decree as to extension or going forward policy.
Similarly, he has cut the F-22 and other military programs that have a huge trickle down affect just like closing GM. Thousands of small companies make parts for the jet engines, airframes etc for these projects.
NO CONSIDERATION for any of those workers. I guess you have to whine to get a bailout. IM WHINING!
If we could get the money that AIG gave out to just a handful of would fund the remaining engines we want to have on hand for emergency/extension options....easily fund it and provide work to hundreds if not thousands of honest hard working employees.
I was watching "The Bailout Channel" (channel 666 on Comc**t) and I nearly fell off my chair when I heard about providing free high speed internet, new appliances and cell phones to the poor. Why work then? Where is the motivation? I recently saw a few funny and yet sad bumper stickers....
"Want nice things? WORK HARD !"
"Honk if you’re paying my mortgage".
This country is toast ! We have sponsored decades of people that have had babies that they can’t afford. Their incentive was to have more babies so they can get more money from welfare. When those children grew up, their parents couldn’t afford to properly educate them for good jobs soooo, they got fewer opportunities than they should have and it’s their parents fault, not mine or the Gov’ts. Those children went on welfare and the cycle continued to the present day. We will shortly, if not already, have a nation of workers that are only suitable for low paying service oriented jobs. There are only so many McDonald’s jobs needed ya know. These are the workers who will be paying into the Ponzi scheme officially known as "Social security". Their low paying jobs will not fund our retirement. But what will we hear from them....I bet it will sound like this "where's my free stuff". The sad fact of all those babies is, they can out vote all the hard workers since the hard working people have typically not had as many babies so they could properly provide them a reasonably good chance at “The American dream”. So If a president runs on the platform of “Sharing the wealth” those who haven’t done for themselves will out vote those who have. We’ve just seen it.
I had to join the Air force so I could go to the college I wanted to…that same opportunity is available to all Americans…no FREE STUFF for me. Work hard is what my parents taught me…and I have.
Socialism and Capitalism don’t mix well. People who work hard for the things they want in life get aggravated when someone else who hasn't gets the same things for being lazy. Just look at Russia, go to a restaurant and see how attentive the waiters are...there incentive to be good/work hard.

I know I’ve drifted a bit on this space blog, but when you’re going to lose your job and your house when you have done all the right things you were taught as a child, it burns my shorts to hear about all those who were lazy/irresponsible getting bailouts/free stuff at my/our expense.
If you can, go to a launch as there will most likely never be another vehicle like the space shuttle. We better be real nice to Russia or they will just take over the station by not allowing us a ride. HOW PATHETIC !
I have spoken with MANY astronauts and the shuttle is the Cadillac, the Russian Soyuz a Yugo.

EugenT said...

The Russian Soyuz may be a Yugo, but it's also a Yugo in terms of maintenance and launch costs. Its launch times are pretty much always on schedule (compare it to current shuttle launch schedule). Plus reliability of that spacecraft is the highest among all space vehicles.

Sometimes simple is better, not the other way around. Of course, space shuttle can do much more than just deliver people (i.e. deliver cargo, use the CanadArm to move stuff, astronauts can do EVAs, etc.), but is it all needed? Maybe that's why American space industry is moving back towards capsules?

Ji Ji Park said...

This is a shame. The space programs are of the few remaining worthwhile expenditures of the government.
aerospace hardware