July 21st, 2011, just 42 years and one day after the first landing on the Moon, I sat and watched America’s Human Space Flight Program come to an end after more than 50 years. As the final “Wheels Stop” was announced by the Commander, I watched in tears as the Kennedy Space Center workers sprang into action to safe Atlantis and allow the astronauts to disembark from the shuttle affectionally known by the KSC workers as the “Penguin.” It was like watching a old family friend die far before their time from a terminal disease, while NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and his NASA minions danced around the tarmac trying to get as much camera time as they could while not disguising their glee at the death of America’s HSF.
In the background, you could see the KSC workers dutifully and professionally tend to Atlantis though they knew the very next day they would be laid off forever from doing what they have productively done for America for 30 years. No tears shed, but a determined expression full of emotion as they went about their tasks. I saw a former lead of mine, Glenn Hall, briefly as the camera passed him by to once more video a jubilant Charlie Bolden. Glenn’s face was deep with emotion, a look that showed a man full of pain but bravely going on with the task at hand, his eyes focused on his job. I wanted to reach through the TV and tell him, along with the others, just how proud I was of them.
With the circus and celebration swirling around them, getting in their way at times, they still managed to put Atlantis back to bed for the final time. The job was ending tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow. There was still a full day’s work to do putting our country’s HSF program and Atlantis to rest with as much dignity and grace as the circus would allow them. Many times NASA administration and the media got in their way as they safely parked Atlantis in the Orbiter Processing Facility, shaking each other’s hands, congratulating themselves on the treachery they had done, and ignoring the workers except in lip service during a few sound bites on TV. NASA may have abdicated their job to our nation, but the KSC workers would not even falter on their last day on the job.
I called my friends at KSC later that evening, and spoke to them briefly. They were busy and many times had to put the phone down to tend to a task. The tone was quiet and hushed as if they were at a funeral. No laughter, no banter, just a determined will to get the job done before the end of the last shift. I am proud to have worked with them for they have all been my heros, my mentors, my friends, and my brothers and sisters.
The next day, they quietly lined up at the United Space Alliance building in Cape Canaveral and turned in their badges. All 1,510 people in this particular layoff (Thousands had preceded them including me). Suddenly unemployed, people who on the average made $70,000/year productively working for the United States taxpayer, now looking at living on 26 weeks of unemployment making only $550 every two weeks in a county that already had over 30,000 people unemployed and their homes underwater due to the real estate crash. And, for every job lost at KSC, 4 jobs within Brevard County are also lost. It should be noted that no NASA employee has lost their job and many have shown distasteful glee at the demise of the contractor jobs in message boards on other space websites.
No future has looked more bleak for the former KSC workers yet these people, who never forgotten the old “Can do” spirit, will find a way to survive. I wish them Godspeed in their future endeavors and think of them each day. Never will such a group of talented people be gathered in one place again working for the betterment of our nation. Well done HSF contractors, well done!
Meanwhile around the nation, NASA’s cohorts in this assassination, the New Space Boys celebrated. They had spent years trying to kill Constellation, the successor program to the Space Shuttle, and felt it was time to celebrate it’s death along with the Shuttle. But, as they are slowly realizing in their drunken party haze, NASA may had led them to believe they were partners in this travesty when in reality they were just “useful idiots.” On July 20th, NASA proposed an onerous set of bureaucratic regulations (Which I predicted here) called Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that will effectively ensure that the slim to none chance the New Space Boys had of sending crews to the International Space Station will not occur till at least 2017 or later (See slide nine of the presentation). The problem is the ISS is scheduled to be de-orbited and burned up over the Pacific Ocean in 2020. If the New Space Boys do get to travel to the ISS, it will be probably for only one trip at the cost of billions of taxpayer dollars.
The New Space Boys are partying now, but soon they will feel the knife in their back slowly start to twist. How long before the New Space Boys seek business elsewhere? How long before they set up operations in another state or other countries such as China and Russia and sell them their services? Only time will tell where these “useful idiots” will go.
The other option, the Space Launch Systems, or more commonly known as the Senate Launch Systems or Nelson’s Folly, has already been ignored and disobeyed by NASA. SLS has basically been a “jobs program” masquerading as a HSF program and was written by Senator Bill Nelson when he realized that supporting Obama on April 15th, 2010 may have cost him his reelection coming up in 2012. Though Congress has ordered NASA to follow the SLS act, the senior NASA administration has consistently thumbed their nose at the law and have continued to kill HSF. They don’t fear Congress as long as Obama is protecting them. And it blatantly shows as they continue to miss deadline after deadline.
Across the world, the Russians did not waste time gloating over our self destruction. Declaring this to be the age of the Soyuz, they have raised the price once again for the sixth time to nearly $63 million dollars to transport just one of our astronauts to the ISS. I can’t blame them for gloating. Because we have killed our HSF, they are pretty much the only ride in town and can charge what they please and give rides to whom they please. In time, it will cost more to have one astronaut ride on Soyuz than it cost for one to ride on the Space Shuttle. In time, they will win the $100 billion ISS by default and there will be nothing we can do about it. They already have the car keys, and soon will have the house keys too.
This has been Obama’s goal all along, to bring down these United States of America to mediocrity. To diminish and weaken our nation, and Florida’s very own Senator Bill Nelson has had a large hand in this. Elections have consequences and the election of 2008 has had extremely damaging consequences to tens of thousands of lives and their families and communities. Obama and NASA do not want any American organization to fly a HSF and refuse to do it themselves. To me, this has been treason of a high order done to our nation and it’s people.