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After years of service, the venerable NASA Space Shuttle is nearing retirement, and with it comes contractor layoffs.  (Source: NASA)
The first round of job cuts hit NASA's contractors

NASA will go ahead and retire the current shuttle fleet next year with nine manned launches left, with job cuts now officially under way for contract workers.

"They are primarily manufacturing team members," according to NASA shuttle Program Manager John Shannon.  "We have delivered the last pieces of hardware that those team members produce and we don't keep them on the (payroll). And that is in order to get our budget down to the marks and the assumptions we made early on. So we will start tomorrow and continue with the workforce reduction we had outlined."

The first wave of job cuts includes 160 contract workers, as an expected 900 jobs will be eliminated through September.  The first layoff notices are being sent to contractors responsible for developing the shuttle external fuel tank in New Orleans and solid rocket booster developers in Utah.  

NASA currently has about 14,000 contractors from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and a number of other companies -- though other job cuts are expected, NASA is relying on the same contractors to help develop Orion and Ares.

It's possible thousands of jobs will be lost among contractors across the U.S. and workers located on Florida's "Space Coast."  Aside from engineering jobs, the Space Coast economy is expected to take an extremely strong hit, with hotels, restaurants, and other businesses concerned about lost revenue over the next five years.

NASA reportedly was interested in looking into extending shuttle service in 2015, but the cost and risks involved were too much.  The current administration was concerned about the U.S. space agency's increased reliance of shuttling astronauts and supplies to the ISS by the Russian space agency.

President Obama is interested in adding one additional manned shuttle launch to the ISS, but won't delay the shuttle fleet's retirement.

Also announced in the press conference:  NASA will go ahead with the scheduled May 11 launch of shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope.  This marks the last time a current shuttle will be sent somewhere else other than the ISS, and will be the last time the aging telescope receives a repair mission.

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By Bubbacub on 5/1/2009 7:13:29 PM , Rating: 1
this needed to be done a long long time ago.

i think nasa should spend what little cash it has now on hard science or in developing a reusable single stage to orbit spaceplane (not a rocket with wings instead of a parachute that tricks lay people into thinking that it does something significantly more advanced than the saturn V rocket).

also i don't see what the purpose is in going back to the moon? we have sent people there and taken some photo's. the propaganda stuff has been milked to death.

if we had a concrete realisable goal then fine. but just going up to take a few polaroids and bring a couple of rocks back is a big waste of money. if there was something worth mining up there or if we had the money and tech to build a self sufficient colony then that would also be ok. as it stands its a waste. if you are going to do something do it properly or not at all.

p.s. please don't start spouting about how lunar he3 is going to change mankind forever - we have it on earth and even though ITER looks very pretty we still don't have an important use for the stuff. if someone makes a viable fusion reactor and we run out of he3 on earth then i will change my position.

RE: finally
By jarman on 5/2/2009 1:39:47 AM , Rating: 4
i think nasa should spend what little cash it has now on hard science or in developing a reusable single stage to orbit spaceplane

That single stage space plane will not offer you much in its orbital capability. The whole point of staging your booster is to dump unnecessary weight as soon as possible.

If all of your propellant is held in a large single stage (and it will have to be large to reach orbital velocity) you will penalize the kinematic capability of the propellant by hauling a heavy empty tank throughout the flight.

RE: finally
By Bubbacub on 5/2/2009 9:11:53 AM , Rating: 3
you are completely correct.

i didn't go into it but IMO if you are interested in putting large amounts of payload into orbit then the cheapest and easiest way is with a big one use multistaged rocket.

however if we developed a SSTO man-rated spaceplane just to get our astronauts safely and hopefully cheaply (depends on the re-usable part i.e. can you land it, fill it up and take off again with dismantling it and xraying every bit to make sure it isnt going to explode - something we do to SS engines) up into orbit then we could use even cheaper non-man rated big dumb boosters to get our satellites and probes up.

it IS technically possible to build an SSTO with current technology. i think the first stage of a titan 2 rocket has a mass ratio good enough to get into orbit with a small payload. with modern composite materials i think we could come up with a way of getting astronauts (but not with lots of cargo) up into space cheaply.

RE: finally
By TA152H on 5/2/2009 11:02:14 PM , Rating: 5
The moon would be an excellent observation platform. I don't know why they waste time with these telescopes that orbit the Earth. They are relatively small, and a pain in the backside to service.

They should be putting it on the moon. They could create a monster sized one similar, or bigger than what is available on Earth, since the gravity is minimal, and you have zero atmosphere there, so you have all the advantages of one circling the Earth. You could more easily repair it, because people could work on ground. You could build a lodging for people instead of these stupid space stations, and potentially keep increasing it.

By creating more of a presence on the moon, we could use it for a launching strip, or a stop along the way for Mars. Getting to Mars from the Moon would be a lot easier, since you wouldn't need nearly as much fuel escaping the Moon's very weak gravitational pull. So, if you had some fuel supplies and such, making a rocket that could go to the moon, refuel, and go to Mars would be considerably easier than going to Mars.

You could also study much more hazardous life forms on the moon, and worry less about contamination. You could try potentially dangerous projects there as well.

There are numerous potential uses for the moon, not the least of which is knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It almost always turns out to be worth it.

If all we do is visit and then come back to Earth, with no other purpose, I'll agree it's not the best use of money. But, I think we can do a lot more there. There are many things we could do there that would have serious advantages to do here. Telescopes come to mind as the most obvious and likely.

RE: finally
By Bubbacub on 5/4/2009 5:26:50 PM , Rating: 2
the moon as an observation platform would be great if we had a permanent colony with mining capabilities. this technology is beyond us and we will not achieve it without a crazy amount of dedicated funding.

the james webb telescope should do a great job in the L2 space (its shield gets the reflective surface in total utter darkness - as good if not better than the dark side of the moon)).

the moon won't be useful until we can live there with a permanent minimally supported colony that can exploit lunar resources. i can't wait until we do.

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