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It has been challenging for the engineers to find jobs that pay as well as NASA

Engineers that once earned six-figure incomes with NASA's space shuttle program are now looking for work or taking jobs that are far below their skill level due to the retirement of the Discovery, Endeavor, and Atlantis shuttles. 

Last year, NASA retired each of the three remaining spacecraft in the U.S. space shuttle program, which lasted nearly 30 years. In February 2011, Space Shuttle Discovery was the first of the three to launch on its final mission with Space Shuttle Endeavour following in May 2011. Space Shuttle Atlantis was the last to go in July 2011.

Since the space shuttle fleet's retirement, about 7,400 engineers from the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida (also known as the Space Coast) were laid off. Today, there are only 8,500 workers at the Kennedy Space Center total when there used to be around 15,000.

A majority of those laid off were individuals in their 50s and 60s who made in the realm of $80,000 to over $100,000 annually. But now, these engineers are finding it difficult to locate jobs at their skill level that pay as well as NASA did. In fact, local Brevard County employers have asked that the Brevard Workforce, which is an unemployment agency, stop sending ex-space employees to them because they want salaries that are comparable to what they made at the Kennedy Space Center.

"STOP sending former Space Center employees," wrote one local employer. "They have an unrealistic salary expectation."

Aside from money issues, another problem the former engineers are facing is age. Many have been working for the Kennedy Space Center for decades. Other engineering options mainly take in the younger generations.

"Nobody wants to hire the old guy," said Terry White, a 62-year-old ex-project manager for the space shuttle program who was laid off last summer. "There just isn't a lot of work around here. Or if so, the wages are really small."

NASA's space shuttle fleet is gone for good, but some saw hope in the private sector, such as SpaceX. SpaceX is a California-based space technology company that recently stepped in when NASA retired the space shuttle program. Its Dragon spacecraft made history recently when it made the first private spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS).

However, SpaceX didn't require nearly as many employees as NASA did for its space shuttle fleet.

To make up for the loss, many former engineers are stuck having to either retire early, take lower-paying jobs, or collect unemployment.

Source: MSNBC



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And they wanted what?
By Dr of crap on 7/17/2012 8:17:16 AM , Rating: 2
I'd guess that NASA was the only game in town.
Now those engineers, who should be smart, should know they need to move to where the jobs are!

What other jobs are there for them to do and that salary at that location - NOTHING! Move along now - nothing to see here.




RE: And they wanted what?
By bug77 on 7/17/2012 8:22:21 AM , Rating: 2
That's the risk of specialization in any filed, I think.
It's also why these jobs tend to be paid more than an accountant thinks they're worth. And then the accountant concludes they're spending too much.
It's complicated, but I bet those that are sill unemployed chose not to work because they didn't have to, yet. It's impossible they couldn't find anything at Boeing, Lockheed-Martin et. al.


RE: And they wanted what?
By FITCamaro on 7/17/2012 10:32:06 AM , Rating: 3
I'll say that some of it likely is not wanting to take a job that pays less than their old one. Personally that's why I don't really look to push my pay as high as possible. I don't want to price myself out of the market. I'm comfortable with what I make.

$80,000 for a senior engineer though isn't that much. That's about average pay for engineers. Senior engineers are typically in the upper 80s or in the 90s. Don't get me wrong, $80,000 a year in Florida is very good due to the lack of a state income tax and the depressed housing market. But for a person of 20-30 years experience, it's fairly low.


RE: And they wanted what?
By bah12 on 7/17/2012 10:50:07 AM , Rating: 3
Well it is an employer's market down there now. 7400 engineers in a localized area is going to significantly drop the market price for an employee (as it should). That and I have no doubt they were over paid by market standards, just knowing how government pays it's people. I'm sure the $80K a year guys just torqued the same 3 bolts every launch and got paid for it.

Maybe I'm just being simple minded, but I cannot imagine a need for 7400 highly skilled engineers to service 3 shuttles. That's darn near 2500 per shuttle! To put that into perspective the shuttle is 184 feet. That is an engineer for about every inch of EACH of the shuttle's height.

Gravy train is over, time to step back into the real world where budgets are not endless, and businesses don't hire hordes of people of busy work.


RE: And they wanted what?
By bah12 on 7/17/2012 10:58:03 AM , Rating: 5
Just to clarify I know there is a lot more need for engineers other than the shuttle itself, I was merely illustrating that if anyone believes that NASA was ran efficiently they are a diluted at best. One of the worst managed agencies. I do truly hope they reinvent themselves to be great again, but for at least the last 2 decades they have been a bloated pig in need of slaughter. I hope they come out leaner at the end of the day, and I really hope that politicians realize what a great organization they utterly ruined by using it as a political pawn instead of giving it clear goals and leaving it the hell alone.


RE: And they wanted what?
By kattanna on 7/17/2012 11:04:44 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
I really hope that politicians realize what a great organization they utterly ruined by using it as a political pawn instead of giving it clear goals and leaving it the hell alone.


that is a pleasant dream, isnt it?


RE: And they wanted what?
By Spuke on 7/17/2012 12:26:55 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for clearing that up. You've just earned a spot on my "reasonable peoples" list. Not that being on that list is a big deal (cause I'm a nobody) but you've earned my respect all the same.


RE: And they wanted what?
By mmatis on 7/17/2012 5:06:55 PM , Rating: 1
YOu might want to note that the bulk of those engineers are NOT NASA employees, but were instead contractors employed by the United Space Alliance (USA), Boeing, and others. The shuttle was an EXTREMELY complex system, and errors in processing even the hold-down bolts would be catastrophic. And those hold-down bolts were explosively sheared at launch, so it wasn't the "same" 3 - really 8 - bolts in that particular system. But then I expect you don't really mind having a Mickey D's burger flipper do arthroscopic surgery on your knees, do you?


RE: And they wanted what?
By bah12 on 7/17/2012 5:25:47 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for proving my point. It needed to die BECAUSE it was so complex. NASA had a vested interest (if not political mandate) in keeping it going , even though it had loooooonng outlived its usefulness. I'd rather have them progressing to a next gen craft than employing hordes of engineers to keep an aging system flying.

I'm not denying the great value NASA brings, but clearly they were a bloated mess. They need to refocus on a newer system. Unfortunately a thinner leaner NASA means 7400 engineers looking for work. I hope NASA gets the funding back to start working on a productive project, the shuttle has not been one for quite some time.


RE: And they wanted what?
By knutjb on 7/18/2012 1:41:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm not denying the great value NASA brings, but clearly they were a bloated mess. They need to refocus on a newer system. Unfortunately a thinner leaner NASA means 7400 engineers looking for work. I hope NASA gets the funding back to start working on a productive project, the shuttle has not been one for quite some time.
I think you fail to appreciate the complexity of flying a vintage spacecraft safely . So instead of funding creative engineers we are funding an expanded welfare system paying similar wages to the bureaucrats. Bang for the buck? The problem we have when this happens we loose the knowledge and experience. The same thing happened when the Apollo program was killed. Now we pay $50M for each astronaut launched by Russia. That wasn't too bright when you consider what the shuttle could do. Try fixing anything in space now. Nope we will just watch multi-billion dollar satellites shine bright in the sky, yeah.

quote:
Thanks for proving my point. It needed to die BECAUSE it was so complex. NASA had a vested interest (if not political mandate) in keeping it going , even though it had loooooonng outlived its usefulness.
Do you have any idea how complex it is to go to space? You don't go to the airport and hop on a spacecraft. NASA is usually the first agency to take a hit during economic downturns. They don't have that much clout in pushing their worth. As for its service life it was at its end. They didn't run it decades, or even years beyond its projected service life.

quote:
I'd rather have them progressing to a next gen craft than employing hordes of engineers to keep an aging system flying
Congress kept putting off a replacement vehicle and Obama killed it. He round-filed our exceptionalism. NASA's budget was relatively small. At least they produced something, unlike much of the federal government.


RE: And they wanted what?
By delphinus100 on 7/18/2012 9:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Do you have any idea how complex it is to go to space? You don't go to the airport and hop on a spacecraft.


Do you know how complex a wide-bodied jet is?

Yet they don't require the kind of 'standing army' of support per vehicle or flight that Shuttles did. But once you have that situation, a great deal of comfort grows around the status quo, and there's a lot of resistance to change, and a lot of pain when it inevitably happens.

No one wants to see good engineers and technicians lose their jobs, but the number of people employed to make it possible (and therefore, one of the reasons it was too expensive to continue to operate), should not be considered a figure of merit for government-operated space access, any more than for a private company...

I'm sorry that the next generation manned spacecraft was not a better RLV, but it was time. And even what's coming are not your father's capsules/lifting bodies...


RE: And they wanted what?
By Bubbacub on 7/19/2012 6:44:19 AM , Rating: 2
the in orbit repair argument is a crock of siht.

the extra ruinous cost of the shuttle compared to saturn or any other dumb booster would pay for 10 brand new hubble telescopes.

there is no benefit in terms of money or risk to astronauts in keeping the shuttle running to repair dud satellites.


RE: And they wanted what?
By MadMan007 on 7/17/2012 12:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't want to price myself out of the market.


That's such a silly thing to say. You don't 'price yourself out of the market' solely by making more money *now*. If you were to go ahead and spend all that additional money and come to rely on it then yeah, but if you ever need to work for 'market prices' again (which you ought to be happy to do given your economic philosophy) then you're just back where you are except you've made more money in the meantime.

It makes about as much sense to say that as people who say they don't want to increase their income because they'll be in a higher tax bracket.


RE: And they wanted what?
By Spuke on 7/17/2012 12:33:52 PM , Rating: 3
Rec77, don't limit yourself in the workplace. I make about $75k myself and could take a pay cut if I had to as about $10k of that goes into my retirement anyways. Also, if you're moving to an area where the cost of living is lower, you won't notice the pay cut. I don't know if these engineers have thought of that.


RE: And they wanted what?
By FITCamaro on 7/17/2012 12:38:45 PM , Rating: 2
Florida's cost of living is already pretty low.


RE: And they wanted what?
By FITCamaro on 7/17/2012 12:39:19 PM , Rating: 3
What I mean is there are some who constantly change jobs in order to push their salaries higher and higher. I don't do that.


RE: And they wanted what?
By Spuke on 7/17/2012 1:37:23 PM , Rating: 2
I see. I don't do that either.


RE: And they wanted what?
By Ammohunt on 7/17/2012 2:58:32 PM , Rating: 2
If you have skills that are in demand and have ambition whats wrong with that? Its foolish to work in a position for decades only to be spun out into a market where you dated skills are useless. Changing positions/jobs every 3-5 years ensures gainful employment and relevant skills. I worked at one place for 5 years switch jobs twice in a year as opportunities presented themselves gathered current in demand skills and tacked on over $15k a year not to mention the privileged of working for one of the top software/hardware companies in the world.


RE: And they wanted what?
By Spuke on 7/17/2012 3:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
I think he means changing jobs JUST to push your salary higher. Not doing it to keep skills relevant although in my field, you're always doing something new because of new tech so staying with a company doesn't always mean stagnation. In the last 10 years, I have worked for three different gov contractors and presently work as a civil service employee. I didn't switch because it was more money (when I switched the pay remained the same for the most part...I did get raises while in the jobs), I switched to do something new.


RE: And they wanted what?
By Jereb on 7/17/2012 5:36:05 PM , Rating: 2
$45,000.00 as an engineering student then on to a $65,000.00 Salary in the office, and the equivalent of around $200,000.00 whilst doing site work is pretty normal for engineering consultancies/contractors here in Australia. Problem is your working in the mining industry and there are some pretty 'unique' people out here.


RE: And they wanted what?
By drycrust3 on 7/17/2012 11:22:24 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
That's the risk of specialization in any filed, I think.

This problem isn't peculiar to NASA engineers, it happens to everyone that was in an industry that no longer exists.
In many ways life is like a buffet meal: you don't just eat the yummy stuff. My advice is for those guys to take lesser paid jobs and to keep their successes to themselves.
Yes, it isn't right, but life is filled with "it isn't right".


RE: And they wanted what?
By Fallen Kell on 7/20/2012 2:51:46 PM , Rating: 2
Except that Lockheed, Boeing, et. al., are all downsizing due to budget cuts. So not only are they not hiring new people, they are letting go of people they already have, and giving them first pick on any job opening that do occur. Just go read the industry news, I think Lockheed is doing a 10% labor force decrease this year alone, on top of decreases they have had over the last 2 years (ever since the group in Congress decided that it was better to stop paying their debt than increase the debt ceiling, the government contractors all saw this as a sign that they might not get paid on services rendered, let alone get new business).


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