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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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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.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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