Jobs Eliminated as Shuttle Program Transitions to Constellation

As the space shuttle program winds down and NASA transitions to the new Constellation program, more than 8,000 NASA contractor jobs in the manned space program could be eliminated after 2010, the U.S. space agency said at a press briefing on April 1, 2008. A NASA report sent to Congress predicts that between 5,700 and 6,400 jobs will be lost at the Kennedy Space Center, where the shuttle processing takes place, before 2012. After that time, a few hundred jobs will be added yearly as the new moon-landing program gets started, with the first Constellation launch tentatively scheduled for 2015. Some NASA managers believe that an update to Tuesday’s report, which is due to Congress in six months, won’t be quite so bleak, but NASA said it could be more than a year before it has more dependable job forecasts.

The most dramatic job cuts will be among private contractors. Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator said that the estimates of job losses were preliminary and they do not take into account numerous factors of potential workload. “Don’t overreact to these numbers,” he said.

The report stated “Our (NASA’s) greatest challenge over the next several years will be managing this extremely talented, experienced and geographically dispersed workforce as we transition from operating the space shuttle to utilizing the International Space Station.”

Nationally, NASA said the number of full-time civil servants in its manned space program would fall to about 4,100 in 2011, a loss of about 600 jobs from this year. Including outside contractors, the number of jobs would fall to an estimated 12,500 to 13,800. About 21,000 are currently employed.

Rick Gilbrech, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems, said that many future contracts for the Constellation program to develop the new moon rockets and spacecraft to replace the shuttle fleet, could improve the local NASA jobs picture.

“There’s a lot of work that’s not folded into these numbers,” he said.

Gilbrech added that the next U.S. president and Congress might not support the Constellation program, which is President Bush’s vision for returning to the moon and going on to Mars.

“We do need stable support and long-term commitment,” he said.

KSC Director Bill Parsons said Tuesday he estimates the center’s 15,000 on payroll will drop to 10,000 people in the next few years before starting to climb slowly. He said, however, that there is hope that layoffs might be rare because up to one-third of KSC workers are eligible to retire before or around the time that the shuttle program ends in 2010. He does not expect workers to abandon their jobs for new careers before then.

“This is not a work force that panics,” he said, referring to the recovery from two shuttle accidents.

Retirement will provide a easier transition for some. However, younger workers may have to redirect their careers into the Constellation program. Those caught in the middle might have to learn new skills or relocate to avoid being laid off. There are also other ripple effects to other non-technical support jobs.

Original News Sources: Space.com, Florida Today

16 Replies to “Jobs Eliminated as Shuttle Program Transitions to Constellation”

  1. I have apologise to all you believers outthere in advance, this must be my pessimistic morning. We will never establish a viable civilization on any other planet anywhere. We may briefly put a couple of people on Mars, but the work could likely be done with robotic landers, far cheaper and safer. The entire program is a waste.

  2. I hate to disagree with you Timber but I think the future of our civilazation and race lie in reaching out to the stars. There is a whole lot more going on out in the universe than even our wildest and most imaginitive thinkers can dream up. While I do agree that robot and unmanned missions are crucial and the first step there are just certain things that need actually human interaction. Just my opinion though

  3. Hi Tim,

    I certainly agree with your second sentance, but we will never get there. We will study all that is going on and learn, and enjoy much more, but Mars is not viable for a civilization and everything else is light years away. Of course this is also just my opinion.

  4. Maybe we Americans won’t there, but you can bet the Chinese will, and, probably, the Russians as well. They’re not stupid, and they know where the resources Earth will need in the centuries ahead are located. — No matter who gets out there, I have a feeling a lot of people love to wallow in the most pessimstic scenarios they can imagine, and try to subject the rest of us to their depressive ideas, which is an emotional predeliciton, not the result of reason. So, on what data and with respect to what scientific models and theories are you pessimists basing your Doomsday scenarios?

  5. Sadly, I doubt we will ever set foot on Mars, much less colonize it. We Americans have lost the stomach for risk, the will to explore, or the desire to pay for it.

    The only time we are willing to move is when we think someone else will beat us to it; otherwise, “It’s a waste of money”, we always hear from Congress and the public.

    We just want to watch DVDs and play our Nintindos. Such a shame, such a waste of an intelligent people…

  6. we are a parasitic specie and as such we are bound to spread through out the universe.

    didnt hear of that theory before?

    …that if overpopulation and disease kill us all

  7. “# Alex Black Says:
    April 2nd, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Sadly, I doubt we will ever set foot on Mars, much less colonize it. We Americans have lost the stomach for risk, the will to explore, or the desire to pay for it.

    The only time we are willing to move is when we think someone else will beat us to it; otherwise, “It’s a waste of money”, we always hear from Congress and the public.

    We just want to watch DVDs and play our Nintindos. Such a shame, such a waste of an intelligent people…”

    I agree to a certain extent Alex, but there are a number of nations that are on the up-and-up who are basically falling over themselves to prove their worth in space… Space is almost the ‘proving ground’ of a great civilisation, and only the USA and USSR (or Russia to a certain extent) can really claim to have proved their mettle so far by both contributing to a number of ‘firsts’. I think in the next 20 or so years, China, Japan and India among others will have the money and are going to be seriously keen to get some of the prestige that goes along with the symbolic act of getting one of those ‘firsts’ in space exploration.

    I think once they even look like getting to the technological point where manned missions to the moon or beyond would be feasible, the USA’s interest in claiming those trophies will, excuse the pun, sky rocket…

    It would be a shame if they were caught napping again – it is interesting to note that almost every ‘first’ in spaceflight was achieved by the USSR. The only thing that the US managed to beat them to was the moon (no small feat of course), solely due to the fact that US politicians were reluctant to fund the space program and related research because they couldn’t see the benefits and underestimated their competition severely… It could happen again if you’re not careful.

  8. I strongly disagree with the naysayers. There is only one scenario where we don’t eventually establish a colony on Mars, and that’s if we do something to destroy our civilization beyond repair. While I admit that is all too possible, I am optimistic that we will avoid that ultimate calamity, albeit not without a good number scares on the way.

    And barring catastrophe, I believe that it is almost a certainly that we will get to Mars, eventually to stay. I am not foolish enough to believe that a colony will be established in my lifetime (hopefully another 30-40 years), but do people really believe that we won’t make it there in 100, 250, or 500 years time?

    My grandparents were born before powered flight and the mass production of motor cars and yet lived to see men walking on the Moon, all in a span of less than 70 years. Sure there have been setbacks and different priorities in the 40 years since then, but science and technology have continued apace and will continue to do so whether or not we go to Mars in the next 40 years. At some point (perhaps after space elevators and powerful and hyper-efficient ion engines are a reality) we will have the wherewithal to get to Mars, and the colonization race will begin.

    I firmly believe that our destiny belongs among the stars (assuming we don’t screw it up before we get there!). The Moon is the next step, but Mars will come soon after. Perhaps no one alive today will ever call Mars home, but I would not be at all surprised if some of their grandchildren do some day.

    (I agree with Astrofiend that the US may not be the ones to get there first. The world is changing and China, India, and Europe will either be our partners or strong competitors in the race to Mars in the decades ahead.

  9. When the U.S. government fails to explore space American private enterprise will.Check out Space X and Elon Musk.He is building A seven man space ship.Burt Rutan isn’t going to be satisfied with sub orbital flight either

  10. There seems to be a confusion between “a colony” and “a civilization”, there is little doubt that a colony of a few, maybe a few hundred, brave souls will colonize Mars but that is far from establishing , or rescuing, a civilization. If rescuing our civilization is the goal, I think the Latter Day Saint’s may have a more realistic approach than thinking about space ships to Alpha Centauri.

  11. This sad news is yet another example of the economic failure of the Space Shuttle. That reusable rocket was supposed to make it cheaper but the end of the Shuttle programs results in a large amount of layoffs? We need less people to make throwaway rockets to replace it? I do feel sorry for those affected. I am a technological refugee from a career that was outsourced to foreign shores myself. With this new recession (or depression, if you lose YOUR job), it is only going to get worse.

    But in the long run, humans will live in space. We have to. In 50 million years, the Earth will be so hot, the oceans will boil away. We have no choice. In the meantime, our unchecked reproduction will reek havoc and the recent megadeath will become gigadeath.

    But I believe some will make it.

  12. Alpha Centuri? That ship you need to build to hold thousands to live for thousands of year *is* a home. Better to make O’Neil colonies that can be moved as the sun’s output changes. Of course, it will require a network of support, probably throughout the solar system. This, of course, is a very long term project with no chance of being started in the near future.

  13. Vanamonde, of course that issue of support is the real problem isn’t it? Just how do you propose that will be done? Maybe we just build a few refueling stations along the way, no more of a problem than your O’Neil colony ships

  14. please look at the new images from the ESA’s Mars Express…especially those of Hebes Chasma. something happened on Mars…???

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