Mixed emotions for NASA with layoffs and authorization bill passed

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - There are some mixed emotions regarding the future of NASA as the fiscal year ends.

Up to 250 contractor layoffs are expected at Marshall Space Flight Center.

The news comes right after Congress passed a NASA Authorization bill Wednesday night, continuing the space agency's mission.

The layoffs are not related to the bill, but they were already anticipated as a part of the retirement of the shuttle program.

As these contractors lay off valued employees, they remain hopeful about the future that this authorization bill lays out for NASA.

The U.S. House of Representatives burned the midnight oil Wednesday to pass the NASA Authorization Act of 2010.

With the 304-to-118 vote, Congress laid out a $58 billion roadmap for NASA's future over the next three years.

"They can look at this and say, this is NASA's direction, this is NASA's policy," said attorney Mark McDaniel, who serves as a NASA policy advisor for several house members.

McDaniel says the bill includes many positive things for the valley, including the building of a new heavy-lift vehicle, which would fill the void that the axing of Constellation will leave behind.

"The government was going to get out of the rocket building business," he said. "Congress said no."

NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver says Marshall will play a very important role in NASA's new direction, giving hope to many that some of those who have been laid-off this year could be rehired.

"We're going to be really looking to that Marshall team of experts there, to help us build the very best, new heavy lift vehicle that this nation's ever had," Garver said.

Though Congress has approved a plan, they still need to pass an appropriations or funding bill.

For now, they've passed a continuing resolution, which will continue this year's funding until Congress passes an appropriations bill.

Unfortunately, the bill can do nothing right now to save contractors jobs.

The bill also includes $1.6 billion in funding for commercial rocket building, which could also bring jobs to both the Rocket and the River cities.

President Obama still has to sign off on the bill before it becomes law.

He's expected to do that in about ten days.

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