Today, Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked and mated in preparation for being rolled out to Launch Complex 39A. This will be Discovery’s 39th and last mission.
Though Discovery launched on her first mission August 30th, 1984, 26 years ago, she has not even reached “middle age.” NASA required the contractors that built the Space Shuttle Fleet to build ships that could fly 100 flights each. Discovery has now flown more flights than any other shuttle but still has 61 flights left in her if the program had been allowed to continue. It is sad to see such a great ship be regulated to a museum so young in her life, but we can thank the short sighted politicians in Washington, both the White House and in Congress.
Discovery was my first ship and has always been special to me. From the first time I saw her during a tour about 3 days after I was hired, to my final walk around her during my last night of work nearly a year ago, I’ve always thought she was the most beautiful and special Shuttle of the entire fleet. To see her go from a productive space craft to a museum piece is saddening.
What makes things more bittersweet is the fact that about 20% of the workforce at United Space Alliance will not be there to see her final liftoff and landing. Almost 2,000 contractors at Kennedy Space Center have been laid off since October of 2009, including another batch of 1,400 workers scheduled to laid off permanently the first week of October 2010. Those 1,400 workers have been directly involved in preparing Discovery for her final mission and have accompanied her to the VAB and will accompany her to the launch pad, but will not be there to see her launch in November.
The remaining workers, about 8,000 at KSC alone, will be let go throughout the rest of 2010 and early 2011, the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The people laid off now and those to follow will become new “government employees” and transferred to the fastest growing Federal Government Department in the last two years called the Unemployment Department. They will all take a 40% pay cut and will not be allowed to produce for the American people anymore in taking care of America’s Human Space Flight program and their new tasks will include how to pay their mortgages, keep food on the table, find another job, etc.
In fact, as I covered in past posts here and here, America will not only lose these productive employees, but will also lose their entire Human Space Flight Program if Obama has his way by cancelling the Shuttle’s successor, Constellation. When you see Endeavour launch in early 2011, it will most likely be the last time you will see an American astronaut fly on an American ship for the foreseeable future. Remember Obama, and your representatives in Congress, including the representatives who were supposed to be protecting KSC Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, when you see that last Space Shuttle fly. Remember they all had a hand in destroying our Human Space Flight program and our leadership in space exploration. Remember they killed Constellation and therefore killed our dreams for our country.
Also, please remember the contractors at KSC and all the other NASA space centers throughout the nation that worked for you America. They punched a clock, worked overtime, spent their salaries in our local economy, and took care of America’s only productive crown jewel for over 50 years for you. They have produced for you and have made America the Human Space Flight leader in the world and all it has cost you is 1/6th of one penny in your tax dollar. In the last 50 years they have sent Americans to orbit the Earth and walk on the Moon. Wayne Hale once described this workforce as “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” There is so much truth in that. Like our armed forces, they have come from all walks of life and have worked together to serve our country, dream big, and produce a better life for all Americans.
I am going to ask a favor of you all. I would like to you take 5 minutes and write or call these contractors that have worked so hard for you and thank them for their service. If you are an astronaut reading this, please also write your thanks to these “ordinary people” because they ensured you got into orbit safely and returned safely to your spouses and families. If you know one of these contractors personally, then give him or her a call and tell them your appreciation.
The majority of the workers in the Shuttle Program work for United Space Alliance, a company owned by Boeing and Lockheed. The Space Shuttle Program Manager is Howard DeCastro. Please make a phone call or write a personal letter to Mr. DeCastro and ask him to forward it on to the workers showing your appreciation for the work they have done for our country. He is an honorable man and will ensure that the workers get your message of thanks. You can write to Mr. DeCastro at:
Mr. Howard DeCastro
c/o USA Community Relations
1102 John Glenn Blvd
Titusville, FL 32780
Or call and leave a message at 321-799-7200
If you have another five minutes, please call or write your representatives in Washington and give them hell for ending Constellation and our Human Space Flight Program. You can find your representative at this website.
Godspeed Discovery and God bless your caretakers for all these years of service.
Shortly after Discovery arrived in the VAB, she was lifted into a vertical position and placed upon the shuttle stack in prepreation for her rollout to the launch pad later in the week.