Shuttle scientists heading for job market

More than 1,000 of the world’s leading scientists and technicians will lose their jobs on October 1st as NASA’s space shuttle program winds down.


The immediate job cuts represent about 15 percent of the workforce, with more cuts expected. Only two final shuttle flights are planned to the International Space Station, one in November and another in February, although some Congressmen have discussed the possibility of an additional flight next summer which would delay further job losses.


United Space Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, manages the shuttle fleet and handles NASA's International Space Station. The Houston-based company employs over 8,000 people at its Florida, Texas and Alabama sites, including nearly 3,000 in the Houston area.


Employees of the space shuttle program were aware of the impending cuts, but have nevertheless excelled themselves recently by launching eight flights in 14 months and set records for the rapid processing of shuttles and the lowest numbers of in-flight anomalies.


"These government/contractor teams are unquestionably performing at an incredibly high level," said John Shannon, space shuttle program manager, in a letter to his employees last month. "I am extremely proud of how all of you are maintaining your focus and completing the incredible legacy of the space shuttle program."


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