In the 1967 film, Mars Needs Women, a team of martians invades Earth to kidnap women to help repopulate their dying species. Shot over two weeks on a minuscule budget and padded out with stock footage, the movie obtained cult status as one of those cinematic disasters that was so bad it was unintentionally hilarious.
A half century later, NASA finds itself in a not entirely dissimilar situation. Only this problem is not nearly as funny.
The space agency lacks sufficient personnel with the proper skill sets to undertake its complex missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. A number of key programs have been affected by the shortfall already.
NASA’s workforce is also aging. More than half the agency’s employees are 50 years and older, with one-fifth currently eligible for retirement. Finding replacement workers with the right mix of skills is not always easy as NASA faces increased competition from a growing commercial space sector.
The space agency is addressing these challenges, but it’s too early to tell how successful these efforts will be, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.
By Bob Granath NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.
“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”
By Steven Siceloff, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
There are few days that are the same for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program astronauts as they train for flight tests aboard the next generation of human-rated spacecraft, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams told an audience at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.
SpaceX has signed a 20-year lease on Pad 39A, the former shuttle launch facility the company plans to use for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.
“I promise everybody, we’re going to make great use of this pad,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and KSC Director Bob Cabana joined Shotwell at the pad to announce the agreement moments after they signed it, beginning the pad’s “new mission as a commercial launch site,” Bolden said.
SpaceX hopes to launch its first heavy-lift Falcon rocket from KSC in the first quarter of next year, a mission previously expected to launch from California.
And if later this year SpaceX wins a NASA contract to launch astronauts to the International Space Station, those missions also would depart from KSC by 2017….
Shotwell said SpaceX would install new instrumentation and some new plumbing at 39A.
More details are to come, but the overhaul likely won’t be as significant as at pad 39B, where NASA dismantled the fixed and rotating shuttle service towers.