6,000 NASA Contractors Face Potential Job Loss

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2010-04-12

In the current case of our space program, it is rocket science and it is somewhat political.

NASA is facing budget cuts from the Federal government and job loss is major concern for many rocket engineers and some leaders in the government-funded space department. With the decrease in funding and the end of programs like the Space Shuttle missions and recent news of the cancellation of the Constellation program, 6,000 contract rocket engineers and assemblers in the Houston area could be facing an employment dilemma.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration made some major shifts in NASA's long term plans like the Constellation program intended for setting up an outpost on the moon for deeper-manned space exploration by the Bush administration. Every new presidential administration repioritizes its agenda, and in turn, where it spends money. NASA did receive funding of an additional $5.9 billion over the next five years, as eWEEK reported in January. But the cancellation of the Constellation program is troubling to the state of Texas and the Houston area.

Some jobs may get absorbed by other space programs slated for funding by NASA, but there are real concerns by some officials in the organization about the timing which could find many with employment gaps not easily replaced, according to a recent article by The Houston Chronicle.

Under previous plans, many of the jobs that would go away with the end of the shuttle program would have been transferred to the Constellation program, keeping job losses relatively low. Now, if Congress approves Obama's budget, thousands of jobs from both programs could be lost. Houston will keep the International Space Station program, which will fly through at least 2020. Even if some of the shuttle and Constellation jobs can be transferred to the new Flagship Technology Demonstrations program in Houston, it will take NASA time to bid out new contracts. So as shuttle and Constellation contractors lose their jobs, there probably won't immediately be spots for them to move into, Coats said. The gap could be 12 months or longer.

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