September 22nd, 2010
05:55 PM ET

As shuttle program nears its end, NASA gives employees a personal view

Shuttle Discovery arrived at the launch pad this week ahead of its final lift-off on Nov. 1.

This week, NASA rolled out the space shuttle Discovery ahead of its final launch on November 1.  The final shuttle launch is slated for late February, effectively ending the U.S. shuttle program which began in the 1960s.

As the end nears, NASA has relaxed the rules so employees can get an up-close view of the vehicles they have passionately worked on for many years.

As the sun set over Kennedy Space Center on Monday,  the mobile launch vehicle carrying Discovery slowly crawled passed the people responsible for keeping the spacecraft flying for the past 26 years on 38 flights. Cheers erupted from thousands of NASA workers gathered outside, as if a rock star just took the stage.

Astronauts signed autographs for employees and their families gathered along the gravel trail.

It took Discovery over six hours to travel the 3-mile journey to launch pad 39a, which it reached early Tuesday.  All day Tuesday, NASA shuttle buses transported thousands of employees to the shuttle, where they could take up-close photos of Discovery.

Large groups from the same work site would travel together to have group photos taken in front of Discovery.  Some groups would wear matching shirts while others held signs for the photos.

Beth and Jesse Palma, who tied the knot in April, wore their wedding attire for the occasion.

"We wanted something different than a standard wedding photo," said Jesse Palma, 27 .  He and his wife have worked for the contractor United Space Alliance at the Kennedy Space Center since 2008. Beth Palma, 26, works at the launch pad and Jesse works at the orbital processing facility.

Jesse and Beth Palma, both NASA contractors, posed in their wedding attire near the Discovery Shuttle.

Jesse Palma said they wanted a less formal wedding photo to give their parents and to have something with the space program to hang on their wall at home.

"So we combined the wedding with the shuttle," he said.

For some employees, the exclusive access to Discovery was a bittersweet moment since it was the last time they would see a shuttle up close. On October 1, 2010, more than 900 NASA workers will be laid off as the shuttle program is retired.  That's just part of over 8,000 NASA workers who could see their jobs eliminated as the last shuttle launches in February 2011.

Jesse and Beth Palma are not part of the upcoming layoffs.  Nevertheless, the impending change is having an effect on everyone at KSC.

"It's so sad to see it come to an end," he said.

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Filed under: Florida • Space • U.S.
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Al Justin

    KSC employees are finally reaping what they sowed and their directors acted foolishly for years which contradicted common sense over the last decade or so. Some forgot that pride goes before a fall.
    The enormous NASA bureaucracy and Hubris got in the way of progress. NASA Space Program turned into a glorified social welfare program of: too many people, making too much money, doing too little, running on the fumes of past glory.

    September 23, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rocket Man

    And I think its gonna be a long long time... On those unemployment lines.

    NASA Chief Charles Bolden said it best "His foremost" mission as head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world." He should have said "Screw all of you NASA employees who will soon lose their jobs." Yup, That's what he should have said since he's only looking to save his own ASS.
    Good thing Bolden's not white or else we'd have to listen to another Jesse Jackson discrimination rights speech too. Farewell suckers. Time to work for the paycheck now instead of keeping chairs warm with redundant workers.

    September 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. svewilly

    Charles Bolden also told us to “Over the years, excitement about space exploration has dropped considerably, which is nothing but bad news for the space agency.Still, Raise your heads and say you're proud to work for NASA.”
    What he meant was " Adiós suckers to the employees who will soon lose their jobs. Raise your head and say you were once proud to work for NASA My biggest challenge was to figure out the most efficient and cost-effective path to get rid of NASA workers ”

    September 24, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Merlin

    Charles Bolden also told us “Over the years, excitement about space exploration has dropped considerably, which is nothing but bad news for the space agency. (That's an Understatement) Still, Raise your heads and say you're proud to work for NASA.” (That is, until you get that Pink Slip with your last paycheck)
    Bolden meant to say " Adiós Suckers. You will soon lose your $$$$$$ jobs but raise your heads since no more brown nosing is necessary. You were once proud to suck down NASA & Bolden's lies when you thought your jobs were secure,.

    September 24, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kvetguy

    I was at KSC yesterday and spent about an hour talking with a KSC person in the new exhibit about some of the future programs.
    News media are providing the wrong message that NASA is finished because of the end of the shuttle program.
    To the point that KSC visitors may reduce hours, lay off people etc

    Sound KSC and other platforms will be greatly updated for the future flights, new rockets (private yes) being tested, manned vehicles too. payload stoo
    Where are theses news?
    Instead of the Lindsay Lohan or other trash talks , CNN should dedicate hours of information about what is going on for space and the near votes in Washington for the future of NASA and other prograns,
    100,000 of jobs are at stake there for present employees and young students.
    Where are the FL politicians on that? Hiding?

    September 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Adnan

    Ahh, don't worry NASA and Space Shuttle guys if you get laid off. I'm sure Beijing will be more than happy to employ you all 🙂

    October 1, 2010 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
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