News / Science & Technology

As Space Shuttle Program Nears End, So Do Jobs

The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.,  May 16, 2011
The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 16, 2011

As crew members of the upcoming NASA space shuttle mission prepare for the final flight of the shuttle program, they say they are inspired by NASA's accomplishments, but also about the retirement of the shuttle fleet and lay-offs among the NASA community.  

To the uninitiated, it might sound like people speaking in code - or gibberish - but that is the sound of astronauts and mission controllers in Houston communicating during an ascent simulation ahead of next month's launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

Astronaut Chris Ferguson, commander of the upcoming Atlantis mission, told reporters at the Johnson Space Center in Houston that while the astronauts are in space, their lives are in the hands of those on the ground.

"We count on those guys to get us through," said Ferguson.

Members of the Atlantis crew say that while their mission is at the forefront of their thoughts, the fact that this is the final shuttle flight is in the back of their minds.

It means saying good-bye to the shuttles - and good-bye to contract workers who have long worked on the shuttles at both Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers.

Again, Commander Ferguson:

"It's a pivotal time for them in their lives," he said. "They want to see the shuttle program through as safely and as successfully as the missions that preceded it, but at the same time, they have other factors on their minds as well."

Other factors, Ferguson said, such as what they are going to do when Atlantis returns to Earth and the shuttle program ends.

NASA relies heavily on contractors for its shuttle program.  According to figures provided by the space agency, as of last month, five out of every six people working on the shuttle program were contractors.  

Once this mission is over, NASA's 1,100 full-time employees dedicated to the shuttle program will be absorbed into other NASA divisions - but thousands of contractors are not guaranteed work at the U.S. space agency.

Much of the contract work has already dried up.  During the past five years, the number of contractors working on the shuttle program dropped from 14,000 to about 5,000.  That figure will decline even further once Atlantis returns.   

Astronaut Sandra Magnus, one of the four members of the Atlantis crew, said the program's end has not hit her completely, but instead "in bits and pieces."  She told reporters about a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in April to look at the orbiter and review the hardware with the ground team.

"And the day after we had this test, about half the team we were working with was going to be let go," said Magnus. "That was their last day.  And that was really, for me, the first time it became, I guess I became emotional about it, because it was just so. . . It was very sad, but it was also very inspiring."

Magnus said she was struck by the dedication of the workforce.

"Even though they were leaving a job that they had for decades, they were still very excited about being a part of the space program, and they were very determined that they were going to give us Atlantis in the best shape it could be in," she said.

NASA is ending the 30-year-old shuttle program to focus on creating spacecraft that can go to asteroids or Mars.

Atlantis, the final shuttle to launch, is set to lift off July 8.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid