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1,200 NASA Layoffs, Shuttle Fuel Tank Plant Shuts Down

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the end-of-an-era dept.

Space 236

As the space shuttle program winds down, 1,200 NASA workers were laid off today, and thousands more will lose their jobs in the months ahead. "Many shuttle workers held out hope that they could find new jobs in the Constellation program, which would have included two new rocket systems and a new crew module to transport astronauts into space. From the beginning, Constellation was plagued by underfunding. This year, Obama killed the program's future funding because of budget overruns and because it was behind schedule. That could affect more than 20,000 workers along Florida's space coast, according to Rice." This comes alongside news that Lockheed Martin has stopped work at the production plant that supplied 136 external fuel tanks for the space shuttles since 1973.

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236 comments

Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33764994)

Wanted: Job where I never have to actually produce anything, except for empty promises and cheesy animation. Experience includes 20 years of sitting on my ass in programs that never delivered, playing foosball in the office breakroom, and hanging out at the watercooler. Skills include dazzling the press with hollow hyperbole, covering my ass, waiting out the current administration, milking the naive dreams of baby-boomers, and building mock-ups. Expect union, high pension, and ridiculous benefits package. If interested, don't call me, I'll call you.

Well I'll be... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765036)

I didn't know Microsoft was hiring.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765098)

Why is this marked "Flamebait", he's right on the ball. We have private companies that produce better results, higher level technology, and at a cheaper price than NASA ever had. These people should be out of job.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (5, Insightful)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765198)

And what private company had built a program from scratch and sent humans to the moon. What private company built launched and continues to monitor probes that have sailed past the edge of our solar system. What private company built, delivered and continues to run an exploration program on the surface of another planet.

NASA has had flops, they've had triumphs, but to say that "these people should be put out of a job" is disingenuous at best, insulting to the good people that worked to expand our knowledge of space and space travel. Unless it is for profit no company will take the same high risks NASA took to accomplish some amazing feats. There is need for both types of programs. One to do something that no For profit company will undertake, one to exploit the knowledge found. Through out history we have examples where government sponsored exploration led to business exploitation, got for all but those being on the receiving end of exploitation. Use your brain before you open your mouth (or type) next time and realize there are real people, real lives behind your comment.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765280)

So authors, musicians and actors should not be allowed a living on the merit of their past works, but these guys should be? What have these guys done for us today? What programs are they involved with now? Why should they be spared this time round?

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765348)

So, distribution companies should not be allowed a living on the merit of authors, musicians and actors past works, but these guys should be?

FTFY

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1, Offtopic)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765382)

No, you didn't fix it for me, don't presume to know what I intended. The standard Slashdot meme is against the author, musician and actor, with the distribution company being a separate target for fun.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765834)

I am not certain where you are coming from in rebuttal. I think you are referring to IP or copyright situations and that has nothing to do with NASA employees getting laid off. OF course artists, musicians, and authors should get paid for past work (for arguments sake let us say in non-abused law sense).

The point I was making was that the people who work at NASA have done some outstanding things for this country and science as a whole. This includes the support personnel which are just as needed as the astronaut or scientist. To be summarily dropped, because of the mismanagement of programs from the top down is bad enough, but the AC just dismissed them and I felt it needed to be said that there are real people with life issue and now the need to look for work in a tight economy.

Another poster commented that these workers paid taxes, spent money, and contributed to the economy. Now they wont for perhaps a long time and that is just a bad decision heaped upon others. So let a musician write a song about this, sell it and make money for perhaps a lot longer then the guy who designed the wheel struts for the shuttle. Please had a play written about the folks that suffered from the largess of the Government and continue to reap royalties long after skilled engineers are pushing brooms to make ends meet. I agree with you, but this had nothing to do with the arts.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765330)

Lot's since they are mostly contractors to NASA.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765344)

So what, that was decades ago, they have not done anything now. We pay them to KEEP PRODUCING RESULTS, not for what they have done decades back. Building everything from scratch was a great feat, but that has nothing to do with now. That was then, this is now, they are not producing anything of use.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765360)

And what private company had built a program from scratch and sent humans to the moon.

North American and Grumman?

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765884)

I think there's a confusion between the technical/innovative capabilities of a "NASA" and contractors, type operation vs. private industry and the financial capabilities of the same. Anyone having an honest perspective will likely conclude that private industry can run circles around NASA's technical/innovation capabilities. However private industry seldom have the pocket book nor the luxury of delayed return on investment government organizations have.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765236)

We have private companies that produce better results

Not a single one has ever put anyone in orbit. I'm all for letting private enterprise launch our payloads for us, but until they star launching people, NASA will still be needed. Or would have been, had they retained the ability to launch people into space.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765266)

What you don't realize is that the civil servants, who are much closer to the policy making, are still employed. The contractors, who are following marching orders, are the ones who got canned.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765372)

Why is this marked "Flamebait"

Because some of the people he's mocking will have /. accounts and mod points.

20,000 nerds; it's inevitable.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (2)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765104)

Score: -1, Insensitive Prick

It really sucks seeing both sides sometimes (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765258)

I can see why the layoff is being done. There are more efficient and cost effective methods of getting into orbit and as another poster pointed out, the private sector in this case is on the road of doing it better and cheaper.

OTH...

Apparently, KSC has layoffs pretty regularly. I once talked to this young man with a young family who was laid off in a round a couple years ago. He blew through his saving and was supporting his family with credit cards until he was "recalled". I didn't talk to him that long so I didn't get to understand the hiring layoff cycles down there - I got the impression it was similar to the way some of the rust-belt industries used to operate before they went completely out of business.

Anyway, this layoff is going to decimate the local economy. We'll be seeing a HUGE surge in foreclosures in that area as well as other defaults.

The economists love to point to "creative destruction" and point out people just need to get "retrained" and other trite economist expressions but it's always easier said that done. The thought of skilled workers, engineers and scientists having to work at Walmart - if they're lucky enough to get a job there - is pretty disheartening.

Economists love to point out that we just need more training - that seems to be their catch all solution for workers who are put out of work. But where does a rocket scientist go from there; especially a middle aged one?

And even then, just pick out any hot job area and can that area support all people getting into it?

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765126)

Laid-off NASA 'worker' or NASA 'manager'? Where was the problem with NASA's culture? I'm sure that not giving a clear mission and a realistic budget was a recipe for disaster, too.

Re:Newly laid-off NASA worker looking for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765486)

They said NASA workers who build fuel tanks were laid off, not web developers. OK... no union in web dev, but everything else fits to a T.

Haha (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765050)

How's that 'change' workin out for yall?

Troll? Oh yes.. so very much.

seriously (5, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765132)

Change is often painful. These layoffs and the others that are coming from the discontinuation of the Shuttle program are nothing compared to the layoffs that would be necessary to get defense spending in line with the DoD's actual needs. The military-industrial complex is a huge jobs program, with branches in every Congressional district in the country.

Re:Haha (1)

Palshife (60519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765378)

It's working great. The shuttle program is a waste of money. A lot of these jobs were wasteful government spending. Private enterprise can do space travel better.

Re:Haha (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765726)

Private enterprise can do space travel better.

Cite? So far, private enterprise has lobbed a few people up to the edge of space. It certainly hasn't put anyone in even LEO, much less sent them to the moon. Certainly private enterprise has built the components and hardware, but funding and operating the programs...?

Space X (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765894)

Space X used private funding to develop all of their space launch vehicles (of course, their largest paying customer is the Government, but they are paying by the launch like everyone else) . They are significantly cheaper than the alternative rockets which had been developed by defense contractors with government funds and cost-plus contracts. They are developing a system for launching people into space (again, using private funds but assuming the government will eventually pay by the launch to get astronauts into space). So you are wrong.

Wonder how.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765102)

I wonder how a certain political faction that starts with a 'R' will spin this one? "The Gov'ment" just got smaller yet a thousand folks lost their _jobs_ in a vicious recession. It's funny how it's never considered that all those government employees actually _spend_ the money they make.

Re:Wonder how.... (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765530)

Easy. For the 'R', all government spending is bad unless it's defense related. NASA does military projects, so cutting it is bad.

Bummer (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765106)

It feels like one of the most inspiring facets of the military industrial complex is trimmed, while the war machine parts seem to have as much power and influence as ever.

I am sure that. (-1, Flamebait)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765122)

Any Democrats running in.
Florida
Alabama
Mississippi
Louisiana
Texas
and
California

Will thank him from the bottom of their unelected hearts.
Hey and the Economy is so good what is 20,000 plus jobs I am sure they will find work again.
I bet if you want to buy a house in Melbourne FL you can get a great deal now as well.

The sad thing is that is one campaign promise he is keeping.

Re:I am sure that. (1)

roothog (635998) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765174)

I bet if you want to buy a house in Melbourne FL you can get a great deal now as well.

Well sure, but that has nothing to do with NASA. Good deals all over the country.

Inevitable (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765144)

Things become obsolete, out of date, the skills become less relevant, the technology passes by.

We also aren't making P-51's, B-52 or Missouri-class Battleships.

Somehow the world hasn't ended.

Do we have a plan for how to proceed from here? Perhaps, perhaps, but with the way Congress works, they'll go two steps in one direction, reverse course, go back three, take four to the left, five to the right, dig a hole, fill it back up, then water some iron to make it rust.

Maybe we should just invest in more X-prizes, maybe NASA should be given a fixed budget, maybe the whole thing should be put up to a national referendum. I dunno.

But I can't cry tears for folks with 20-30 years of government work.

Re:Inevitable (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765190)

1. We SHOULD be making P-51s because idiots with too much money and not enough skills keep crashing them. Travesty.
2) The B-52 will be getting an 8 Billion makeover from Boeing.

Re:Inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765770)

1. We SHOULD be making P-51s because idiots with too much money and not enough skills keep crashing them. Travesty.
2) The B-52 will be getting an 8 Billion makeover from Boeing.

1. Well, set up your own assembly line then.

2. Sure, the airframes are still useful, but they aren't building more. Might even still be chopping them up if they haven't finished already. If the Shuttle weren't such a specialized product it might be worth working on, but it's really not worth it in comparison, the economies just aren't there.

Not really (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765316)

There are B-52s still being built. Admittedly, not using the original design and the only similarity with the original is the name, but they are there.

NASA should be funded in a similar way to the way the BBC is funded in the UK - given a fixed amount for a fixed length of time and a charter for that period of time, with zero interference permitted outside of the GAO verifying that the charter is being complied with to the limits possible given the funding. This hybrid state should have the right to make additional money and should have some of the rights granted to private organizations but not granted to public organizations, but also have some of the protections granted to the civil service.

This is the only way to give it the funding necessary without the political ties that corrupted the Space Shuttle program, leading to an overweight monstrosity.

So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (2, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765158)

That's going to hurt. 2 billion dollars. Perhaps more.

Re:So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765242)

Grrrr. I posted to fast.

20,000 workers affected but only 1,200 losing jobs.
So 120,000,000 million.

Still quite a hole.

Hmm how can I save this... okay.. how about htis.

Each dollar goes around in the local economy about 7 times before exiting.*
So 120m*7 = 840million loss to the economy.

* problem- it doesn't any more- if you buy anything from walmart or anything made in china, 95% of your dollar leaves the community immediately. Also anything where the money immediately leaves the country for product or services and to a large extent anywhere that it leaves your state and even where it leaves your municipality.

Example, you make $75,000 and another $25,000 is going to SSI, unemployment taxes, medical insurance, etc overhead.

You take your $75k and buy a house with $15,000 of it. The boards and nails are made in a local plant- the labor is local- the money stays in the community.

You buy a car- zoom, $5k a year of your money is leaving the state never to be seen again.

You spend $1k a year on massages- your massage therapist / barber / lawyer/ etc. all pass money around between each other and some of them come into your web design store and pay you for web sites, you spend the money locally again.

You buy a $1500 TV from china and basically all $1500 immediately leaves your economy.

You buy $1200 in locally grown produce- it goes around for a while.

etc.

But basically I blew the 2 billion dollar estimate by misreading TFA.

Re:So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765500)

It was tax money. That was all money scraped off of the profit that everyone made. It should have no LONG TERM effect on the economy.

Re:So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765562)

Oh I can agree with that.. I'm for space travel and I think it's going to get a lot cheaper in 40 years and we could spend it better elsewhere now.

And tax dollars or not- it's going to blow a hole in the local economy. Those were not minimum wage jobs.

Re:So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (1)

MarcQuadra (129430) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765292)

Yeah, %0.13 of the economy. Every number has to be put into scale when you look at the massive size of a 300M person country with a 15 trillion dollar economy.

$2B sounds like a lot. It really isn't.

Re:So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (2, Insightful)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765484)

Is NASA supposed to be a jobs program or a space program?

If the latter, then killing the Shuttle and Ares was the right move.

Re:So probably 2,000,000,000 hole in economy. (1)

nwf (25607) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765584)

Is NASA supposed to be a jobs program or a space program?

I think every government program is a jobs program. Having worked for the US Government, I can attest that it does nothing well or efficiently.

Lockheed Martin are fools. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765170)

The aerospace industry is suffering from a lack of manpower right now. Both Boeing and EADS are failing to deliver. Sane competitors use times like those to their advantage. Foolish competitors sack their workforce instead.

Sure, these workers may not have ideal skills for other programs, but that's a matter of training. They already have skills in technologies that required far higher precision and far higher quality than most other projects would require - those are skills that would take a LONG time to teach. Moving workers onto new projects is efficient, sacking them and training new employees in all the stuff the old ones already knew is inefficient.

Anticipate, keep several steps ahead of the market, never over-specialize your employees, always exploit transferable skills, never waste a single resource, never give your competitor the chance to regain lost ground through ditched employees, a redundant employee is a wasted opportunity.

I'd make a lousy businessman.

Re:Lockheed Martin are fools. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765324)

I'd make a lousy businessman.

Future tense. At least you're optimistic about having options.

Lockheed doesn't have the new projects. Boeing and EADS may be screwing their respective pooches, but that's mismanagement. More staffing would just mean more people mismanaged.

What needs done is for those companies to start picking over the NASA peeps' resumes, and do some swap-outs. Toss some deadwood and level-up their staves.

Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Obama (4, Informative)

jbeach (852844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765172)

Reading the article, Bush actually ended the shuttle program back in 2004. The article further says that if Obama signs a NASA budget bill that authorizes another shuttle mission, those workers could stay employed for one mission longer.

What Obama is ending is Bush's proposed "shuttle replacement" program, the Constellation. Much as I'd like to see space exploration continue, if the Constellation is already behind schedule and over budget I can understand it. Especially in this current climate.

It's definitely going to hurt Democrats in Florida though.

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765200)

The Constellation is the official Shuttle replacement. Wasn't there an unofficial replacement being designed (and maybe developed) by ex-NASA guys? That was cheaper, on-schedule and likely to actually work?

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (1)

jbeach (852844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765350)

I haven't heard about that. Love to see some info it.

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (2, Informative)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765714)

I haven't heard about that. Love to see some info it.

Check out more here. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (2, Interesting)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765508)

Well, another thing they could have done was use an existing EELV with appropriate safety modifications rather than try to design a brand-new rocket from parts. But that doesn't keep favored political districts happy.

The whole "you're behind on schedule and over budget" thing reminds me of the phrase "don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining". A big reason the program is behind schedule and over budget is because it was never properly funded in the first place. They're whacking their star athlete in the kneecaps with a lead pipe and then complaining because he's not running very fast.

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (3, Informative)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765652)

Check out the DIRECT Program [wikipedia.org] . That might be what you are referring to. There are also a lot of other possible shuttle replacements that rely on various degrees of existing vs. nonexisting technology. A little Googling can reveal a lot of them, but I will leave that as an exercise to the reader.

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765416)

bush set up the constellation program, but didnt fund it its funny, all the conservatives deriding the democrats for not funding constellation. Dont like it when the govt handouts stop coming to florida, georgia, and texas huh? Welfare indeed.

Re:Bush ended the Shuttle program in 2004, not Oba (1)

jbeach (852844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765942)

It would've been my guess that the Constellation program was a rather hastily thrown together afterthought, that the Bush administration wouldn't actually have to deal with implementing. Just kick the can down the road...

Bummers for them, good for US (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765212)

It always sucks to lose your job. But government layoffs like this are the inevitable result of the long overdue move to getting out of the way of commercial spaceflight.
Plus, when a highly skilled workforce gets furloughed that is an opportunity for new companies in the area to improve their human capital. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Re:Bummers for them, good for US (1)

roothog (635998) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765256)

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Thank you for trying to make laid-off people feel better through platitudes.

Re:Bummers for them, good for US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765502)

Thank you for trying to make laid-off people feel better through platitudes.

Its a heck of a lot better than the politicians using them to make hay for themselves.

Re:Bummers for them, good for US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765282)

They'll be fine. In my experience, NASA on the resume is your ticket to interview anywhere you want.

Re:Bummers for them, good for US (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765772)

NASA on the resume is your ticket to interview anywhere you want.

Depends. If you're an aerospace engineer working at Mission Control, sure. If you're a technician inspecting heat shield ties, not so much.

And the problem is what, exactly? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765228)

Re:And the problem is what, exactly? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765314)

That's what happens when you elect someone whose middle name is "Hussein".

Thanks for voting him into office, retards. Thanks for helping fuck up our nation.

What a Balanced Budget Looks Like (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765230)

Do this whole operation 3,000-fold, and then increase taxes by a like amount ($3000 per U.S. resident each year), and at that point you've got basically a balanced federal budget. i.e., The $13 trillion national debt holds steady instead of growing more.

Re:What a Balanced Budget Looks Like (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765534)

Thats not good enough. We actually have to pay down the debt at some point.

Re:What a Balanced Budget Looks Like (3, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765692)

No we don't.

Not any more than we have to pay down the umpty-trillion dollars in personal debt.

We may have to pay off the bonds we issued 30 years ago, but we can issue more bonds to be paid in 30 years. They're being done for different projects, so the old projects are being paid for and the new ones are just getting started. Similarly, I may have to pay off my house, but my children can borrow to build theirs. There's still debt in the family, and in the banking system, and it gets bigger as time goes on.

And it's crucial to the size of the economy. Think "money multiplier" and you'll understand what I mean.

If we actually did try to pay off the national debt, it could only be by not doing anything new on credit, and insisting on only doing those things we could pay cash for.

Individuals can do that, after they've paid off their houses and stopped driving anywhere, but it implies your life is coming to a close and you have no use for growth. And their children aren't going to have to live under their parents' paid-off roof for their whole lives, as paupers, because they won't have enough cash to buy a house for decades, if they ever do, because once they have kids they'll have to use the savings for the additional expenses.

Same deal for entire nations. The only way you can justify going onto a pay-as-you-go system is to tell the future it doesn't get the right to borrow to create the sort of livable conditions you had.

So no. We never have to pay down the debt. We just have to pay off the old debt and spend the newly borrowed money on things that are good for the country as a whole, instead of on things that make a few people rich to nobody else's benefit.

Also laid off October 1 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765238)

The article says October 1 is coincidence. Well, the layoffs are *because* October 1 is the beginning of the new fiscal year for NASA. I (working for a contractor) had my last day yesterday along with a lot of other folks because the goddamn budget still hasn't gone through for the contracts. It's okay for me--I'm a kid, I'm taking a vacation until the money comes back--but for the real talent who still got screwed, who have families, they'll need to find other jobs. The brain drain on the contractors could be a bad thing.

From what I've seen, we'll get a good NASA back when we fix the problems with its masters. There are lots of good people who are doing lots of good work that then gets mercilessly thrown away by the folks on top. There are other problems, lord knows--endless, useless conferences, useless hangers-on, and an institutional memory that's inching towards 100% Powerpoint--but being able to fund a project to completion goes a long damn way.

How depressing (4, Interesting)

turgid (580780) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765248)

As a Brit, I follow the US space programme with intereset, because it's the best hope the human race has for getting off this rock.

It seems to me that buying routine human access to LEO from commercial companies is a good idea nowadays that the technology is sufficiently advanced and well understood, and it seems silly to waste public money on that which can be accomplished quicker, cheaper and safer by the private sector. Ares I looked like a disaster waiting to happen both financially and in terms of crew safety.

The space shuttle was a remarkable piece of over-engineering, but 14 people lost their lives in it.

I feel really sorry for these people being layed off. The transition from Shuttle to whatever the successor may be has been very poorly handled. Minds keep changing and there is no plan. Tens of thousands of people will suffer and a great deal of technical skills will be squandered.

I'd like to see NASA developing a new heavy-lift booster for going beyond LEO, something that can lift huge payloads (100 tonnes?) and people if necessary. I'd like to see big space telescopes, a long-term human outpost on the moon, the manned asteroid missions and a space dock and construction facility for building a real space ship for going to Mars.

Where is the vision? My country doesn't have any, alas. We cancelled our rocket programme back in the 1970s because the politicians couldn't see a future in satellite launching...

China is coming along, I suppose, so there might be some home there, maybe even a new space race?

One thing's for sure, we (the human race) will never get anywhere unless someone sets some goals. We need to learn to live on other planets and the only way we'll do that is by trying.

So, is NASA going to build a DIRECT launcher now or will there be yet another politically-driven paper study of an over-engineered, under-performing white elephant?

Re:How depressing (1)

roothog (635998) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765276)

We need to learn to live on other planets

Why?

Re:How depressing (2, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765462)

In case something happens to this one.
So the species can grow.

Or any other reason that doesn't involve meekly rolling over and accepting the end of our race with a whimper.

No, we can't do it right now. But that's all the more reason to be trying to figure out how.

Re:How depressing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765750)

"Hey, why are you guys sailing around in ships 'exploring'? Why not just stay here and live in a mud hut like everyone else?"

Re:How depressing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765370)

That's "program".

Re:How depressing (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765628)

The space shuttle was a remarkable piece of over-engineering, but 14 people lost their lives in it.

We should have learned two things: 1. Don't let the managers override the engineers when they know what they're talking about. 2. The manned module needs to go on top so it can't get damaged by crap falling off the boosters.

I think we may have learned (2), but I'm less optimistic about (1).

Re:How depressing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765648)

As a Brit, you should know better. Russia and Europe already have superior space programs. Who do you think puts the most satellites into orbit? Ever heard of MIR? China and India are starting to play the game, seeing as they have massive resources, funds and cheap labour, expect good things. NASA and ESA engineers are already moving east, just as the German U2 scientists got war indemnity, providing they worked on American and British "rocket" projects.

"We" the human race are going nowhere. We can't even build decent transport systems, can't stop invading weaker countries to steal their resources (these days that's oil), let alone handle the massive engineering problems trying to build a can that people stand a chance of surviving in traveling on a one way ticket to their death. Learn something about astronomy, it isn't bloody star trek!

Get back to your shitty soap operas, over priced fuel and stone henge standard teeth, eh?

Re:How depressing (4, Informative)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765888)

So, is NASA going to build a DIRECT launcher now or will there be yet another politically-driven paper study of an over-engineered, under-performing white elephant?

The 2010 NASA Authorization bill recently passed by Congress [go.com] mandates a new vehicle called the Space Launch System that will have to lift a minimum of 70 tons, evolvable to 130 tons with a second stage.

The bill states that the vehicle will have to be completed by the end of 2016 within a budget of $11.5 billion.

The only real option for a rocket of this capacity that can be built within this time and budget is something like the DIRECT architecture. NASA still has to decide the specifics though.

NEVER ENUFF BURGER FLIPPERS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765250)

and those fryers need some rocket fuel types if only for the safety training they may have had !!

Burger King is hiring !! And we need about 1200 here in Joliet alone !!

Thank goodness (0)

ninjagin (631183) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765260)

Mmmmm. Smaller government. I think I'll throw a Tea Party.

Re:Thank goodness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765430)

Nonono we oppose the big government takeover of the space industry by downsizing NASA. It has nothing to do with the fact that it's in a red state, it's threatening America.

Just like how Democrats like extrajudicial killings under Obama but not Bush; politics in America have become partisan to the point where no one even has a coherent agenda.

To NASA Employees that Read /. (4, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765264)

Hey, former NASA employees, I have some thoughts for you. I just graduated with a degree in aero engineering myself a couple years back. I've been paying attention to the space industry since well before then so I have some advice if you are looking for new jobs.

1) Frankly, we don't know if there will be a government funded replacement for the shuttle ever. As such, start thinking about where your skills could apply elsewhere. Right now SpaceX, Bigelow, Boeing, the ESA, JAXA, Energia, IOS, and numerous other startup space companies are working on manned space programs. These include everything from space station building to capsule development. Most of your decades worth of skills and experience are directly transferable to these companies so start checking them out and applying.
2) There are other tech. industries where your skills could come in handy. If you worked on automation, data processing, signal filtering, or control dynamics, start looking into the robotics industry. All of those skills apply well there. If you worked in antennae theory, try checking out all of the new research going into wireless technology development (wi fi, 3g, 4g, etc.). If you worked in human-habitat development, I read about a few companies trying to design underwater habitats for humans. That's pretty analogous to habitat development in space. Also, most skills that go into designing spacecraft are directly transferable to designing boats and/or submarines. Those are also some industries you can look into.
3) Don't neglect to mention the qualities that made you a good employee for NASA in the first place on your resume. You worked on a project the likes of which had never been done before. You are obviously intelligent and a good general problem solver. You are not a pidgeon-holed employee. When the shuttle program started, you had to figure out how to design and build a space plane. There was almost no research in that area before. Likewise, those same problem-solving skills need to be emphasized on your resume now. Don't just talk about that one bracket that you designed. Talk about how that bracket solved a problem that was unique without any prior art. It will make you very appealing to start-up companies.

You guys worked hard on a great project. But you have to admit that an ~30 year long engineering project is a very long project lifecycle in this industry. Few, if any employees at other organizations can brag about working on a single project that long. That said, thanks for all the hard work, but you, as well as the rest of us, know that the shuttle was past its prime and needed to be put to bed. So please, don't become angry old fogies reminiscing about the good old days. Use those uniquely awesome and genius skills that you have to help lead my generation into a new era of space infrastructure development the likes of which has never been seen before. We have new technologies. We have new mission architectures. We have unprecedented levels of access to enormous amounts of information. We need your wisdom. We need mentors like you as we find our own way in this industry. Seize those resources along side the rest of us in this industry and let's show the solar system just what our silly little species is capable of!

Re:To NASA Employees that Read /. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765758)

3) Don't neglect to mention the qualities that made you a good employee for NASA in the first place on your resume.

For a lot of them, it was "met the degree requirement," "didn't lie on resume' on the things we checked," and "is willing to take goverment pay even though all those Silicon Valley companies are turning secretaries into millionaires."

Re:To NASA Employees that Read /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765824)

It's content like this that's why I read /.

Thanks, "BJ Covert Action".

Innovation will take a hit (1)

StaceyRey (687641) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765304)

One problem with this is that space research drives a lot of innovation that affects the mainstream market. I know that this round of layoffs does not mean an end to NASA, but it does take a bite out of the creative resources it had.

I don't think cutting funding for space-related research and development is a good thing.

More accurately... (2, Informative)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765444)

"This year, Obama killed the program's future funding because of budget overruns and because it was behind schedule."

Two things:

1) The shuttle program was killed years ago by a previous President. It's been a long time winding down the program, but its fate was sealed well before the 2008 election.

2) The Ares 1, even if completed, would have had serious operational deficiencies. It may be worth paying a lot for a launcher that works well for the mission at hand, but it's been clear for a long time that Ares was never going to be that launcher.

Can't afford waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765454)

We can't afford waste in this poor economy. So NASA's XXbillion dollar budget will have to go! How else are we going to pay down the trillions in debt we gained in the last 10 years trying to shove democracy down the throats of a bunch of savages.

Yeah progress!

Not that it really matters. Obama should be jailed for his presidency. He can share a cell with GWB, and the last 5 leaders of the House/Senate.

It's not political (2, Insightful)

bkmoore (1910118) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765468)

Why are there so many people trying to blame the end of the shuttle on the Democrats. The space shuttle has been operational for 30 years across both Republican and Democratic administrations. It was mostly developed during the Ford and Carter administrations. The timing of the space shuttle retirement has nothing to do with the party in power. I get the feeling if there's an earthquake in China Republicans will blame it on Mr. Obama. Maybe its payback for all the flattering films Michael Moore made about Mr. Bush. Can't we all just get along? Both parties are equally inept and corrupt. I feel bad for the engineers who stayed on with the shuttle until the very end. Many probably could have left earlier for a more secure job. But they stayed on in order to ensure the safety of the final flight. I hope NASA and the government take care of these people and ease their transitions into other jobs. Call me a softie. I have been sacked from a job and I have a family, so I know what it's like. It could happen to anyone.

Re:It's not political (1)

pavera (320634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765732)

I don't blame them for the end of the shuttle program, but they certainly do get the blame for canceling any hope of future manned space flight! Awesome Go Democrats! with the economy reeling lets pass trillion dollar bailouts for idiot bankers, and lay off more than 25k scientists and engineers! Awesome way to jump start the economy! Idiots! Hopefully all these nasa engineers can find work in Japan or China working on their space exploration missions...

as an aside, I also love how the health care legislation is already backfiring! McDonalds cancelled health insurance for 30k hourly workers yesterday because they can't afford to provide "full" coverage under the new law, and the coverage they did provide is now illegal, more than 10 health insurance companies have already pulled out of the health insurance market, pushing more and more people to UnitedHeath and Blue Cross Blue Shield... by 2014 those will be the only 2 choices for health care, and rates will probably be 2-5 times what they are today (you do know what monopoly pricing power means right?!? Especially when the government REQUIRES everyone to buy services from you...) How the democrats thought that was going to work is beyond me, they must be complete idiots, or there wasn't a single one of them that passed economics 101...

All My Space Travel ( +4, Patriotic ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33765498)

is with Energia [energia.ru] .

Yours In Baikonur,
Kilgore Trout

I won't miss the shuttle program (4, Interesting)

thue (121682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765568)

The shuttle program was a huge waste of money, for almost no science benefit. See http://www.idlewords.com/2005/08/a_rocket_to_nowhere.htm [idlewords.com]

A random quote: "And of course, there was John Glenn, monitored inside and out, blood tested, urine sampled, entire organism analyzed for signs of accelerated aging. Close observation of the Senator suggested that there might not be any medical obstacles to launching the entire legislative branch into space, possibly the most encouraging scientific result of the mission."

Damn (5, Insightful)

TRRosen (720617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33765804)

Am I the only one looking at those numbers and saying "Damn what the hell did all those people do". Maybe privatization is good. 1200 people to produce a fuel tank every few months. There is a light bulb joke in there somewhere.

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