On @ The 90: Layoffs, Closings & Departures – The Era of ‘Hope & Change’ Has Begun

'On @ The 90' is a weekly editorial that reviews events within NASA in the post-shuttle era. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. – Although NASA has worked to put a positive face on its current state of affairs, the numerous skilled personnel that are have either left or are leaving the agency along with those that are being laid off tied with either the planned or occurring shut down of a number of NASA facilities – points to an agency whose future is in serious doubt.

As veteran shuttle commanders Steve Lindsey, who has already left NASA and Mark Kelly, who will depart come October, leave the space agency other key NASA officials are joining them and calling it quits. NASA Safety Chief Bryan O’Connor, who happens to be a veteran shuttle pilot himself, is leaving NASA this month. The astronaut corps is dwindling with an astronaut departing the agency at the rate of about one every two months.

The White House has announced its intention to shut down 15 of NASA’s data centers by the end of 2012. A week after the final shuttle mission landed, NASA held a ceremony honoring another long-time element of its human space flight program, the Merritt Island Launch Annex (MILA) Tracking Station – as it was shut down.

On Florida’s Space Coast 1, 510 aerospace workers received their pink slips the day after the space shuttle Atlantis touched down after its successful STS-135 mission.

Some have tried to state that NASA’s international partners will aid the agency during this transitional period – but one partner in particular is proving that line of thinking to be in error. Within days of the final shuttle mission’s landing Russia was proclaiming that it was the ‘Soyuz Epoch’ and then made comments about dumping the International Space Station (ISS) in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.

Many have attempted to hold Russia as a very important partner in U.S. spaceflight efforts, however within the past year Russia has denied the use of its Soyuz Spacecraft to capture images of all the key ISS partners spacecraft docked at the I.S.S. at a single time (the U.S. shuttle, Russian Soyuz, European Space Agency’s ATV and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s HTV were all at the station). Russia increased the cost of flying on their Soyuz Spacecraft to $63 million up from $56 million. They have also stated that SpaceX would not be allowed to dock their Dragon Spacecraft to the I.S.S until it was deemed safe.

For those that were promised big things for the space agency by both the president and his appointed officials – this is yet another sign that the words coming from the White House and its appointed NASA officials are either ill-informed – or less than sincere.

“You know, the other day we landed the final flight and you heard all these big words from Bolden and Garver, bands were playing, all that..,” said one worker who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution said. “Now you see all these elements of NASA being disassembled faster and faster – where are Bolden and Garver now?”

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