Former NASA Space Shuttle Engineers Still Looking for Work
July 17, 2012 7:00 AM
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.
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