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Shuttle Atlantis Lands Thursday; KSC Layoffs Friday

July 21, 2011 | WMFE - Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center before dawn this morning, bringing an end to NASA's 30-year shuttle program. It was a day for celebrating a successful mission, but it also marked the ends of thousands of space shuttle careers.

[Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett]

NASA held a ceremony at KSC to honor its Space Coast workforce, and the guest of honor was Space Shuttle Atlantis itself.  The orbiter slowly rolled up to its processing facility, and NASA even gave it a soundtrack for its final grand entrance.

A crowd of shuttle workers gathered to watch, but many knew they would not be coming back to work next week.  That doesn’t leave much time to say goodbye, but Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana took time to say thanks.

“We processed these vehicles through launch and recovery better than we ever have before,” Cabana said, “and that’s knowing that many are going to be out of work. And yet you performed flawlessly right up to the very end.”

About 2,000 people will be laid off now that Atlantis is back home.  For many, their last day of work is Friday.  They’ll join the more than 4,000 who lost their shuttle jobs before Atlantis’s mission.

Kennedy Space Center is co-sponsoring a job fair next Tuesday in Cape Canaveral aimed at helping the displaced workers find private or government jobs in the aerospace industry.  45 employers are expected to attend.

NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden addressed Thursday’s KSC ceremony and said he has always counted on the shuttle workforce.

“You all have never let me down,” Bolden told the workers. “Thousands of men and women across the country, and some around the world actually, have made this amazing flying machine space worthy time and time again.”

The biggest cheer went up when the Atlantis crew made an appearance at the ceremony. 

Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus called the shuttle workforce the best in the world.

“You are what makes it possible for us to have these very challenging missions and succeed,” Magnus said.  “We can’t even thank you enough from the bottom of our hearts for what you do.”

Space Shuttle Atlantis will go on display at a huge new facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s complex around 2013.  For many of the people here, who have worked so closely with the shuttles over the years, that exhibit is as close as they will get to the orbiters from now on.

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