That’s “Save Our Shuttle [Jobs]“, of course. On Tuesday, NASA released a shuttle workforce transition report that includes preliminary estimates predicting up to 9,000 jobs, primarily among contractors, that will be cut over the next three years as the shuttle is retired. The vast majority of those cuts—up to 6,400—will be at KSC, as expected. Some of those cuts may be partially offset after 2011 as Constellation efforts ramp up—assuming Constellation continues in something like its current form in the next administration.
This has fired up the two members of the House whose districts include KSC employees. Rep. Dave Weldon used the report as an argument for his “SPACE Act” legislation (HR 4837) that would authorize funding to continue the space shuttle program after 2010 to eliminate any gap in US government human spaceflight capability, and turned up the rhetoric another notch or two. “This report only confirms what I have been saying for the last several years. The Bush Administration’s space plan is woefully inadequate and unacceptable. The Administration’s current plan is to cede the ‘ultimate high ground’ to hostile nations. The Chinese and Russians are celebrating today, while many on the Space Coast are only now realizing the magnitude of the absurdity of the current strategy imposed by the Administration.”
Rep. Tom Feeney also expressed his concerns about the situation, but while Feeney is a cosponsor of HR 4837, he focused more on other solutions. “After the Shuttle retires, KSC will host important engineering and assembly work supporting lunar exploration. So expanding human spaceflight to the Moon is critical to stabilizing the Kennedy Space Center’s workforce,” he said, adding that “We should devote the resources necessary to rapidly bring the Constellation program online after the Shuttle’s retirement so KSC isn’t as severely impacted as forecast in today’s report.” Feeney did fire a shot in the direction of the presidential candidates: “Any Presidential candidate intent on killing lunar exploration is condemning Florida’s Space Coast to the scenario found in NASA’s initial forecasts.”
In his press release, Weldon complained that “My colleagues in the Senate haven’t seemed to grasp the scope of this debacle and the urgency with which we must act.” Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) issued a brief statement that may not be sufficient to mollify Weldon. “There is no simple fix to this problem, but we know where to focus our efforts, We need to accelerate the Orion and Ares programs, we need to foster a competitive environment for commercial space operations, and we need to assist the individuals and businesses affected by the transition.”