For Space Shuttle Workers, The End Is Here

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NASA’s future may be up in the air, as Congress debates a myriad of options for the U.S. human space program, but 1,394 shuttle workers are getting a concrete reminder this week of what’s in store — no job.

United Space Alliance, NASA’s prime contractor for preparing the space shuttles for flight, followed through on a layoff announcement made earlier this month with notifications to 902 workers in Florida, 478 in Texas and 14 in Alabama that Sept. 30 will be their last day at work.

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The company previously shed 743 positions under its shuttle processing contract during layoffs in October 2009 and this past June. The latest wave cuts about 15 percent of the firm’s 8,100-member shuttle workforce, with more layoffs coming next year.

There’s no clear picture yet of what’s ahead for NASA. The Obama administration’s plan to end the follow-on program to the moon has spawned two “compromise” plans in the House and Senate that would keep parts of the program, called Constellation, intact, albeit under a new name. The White House’s push for $6 billion over five years to jump-start commercial human space travel is losing ground, with the Senate plan allotting $1.6 billion over three years and the House paring down the request to $150 million.

It may be small consolation to the shuttle workforce to at least be out of limbo.

Image: Space Shuttle Atlantis at the launch pad (NASA)