First, the Shuttle Discovery it's still scheduled to launch on November 1st. It's the final mission for discovery, and engineers say they can finish their repairs of a fuel leak by Monday. Then it will launch on an 11-day mission to deliver a storage room and robot to the International Space Station.
NASA was talking today, too about when layoffs will be happening. They say the shuttle program is currently at one-half the workforce it was two and a half years ago. The program can expect another round of layoffs about 320 employees in January then the last really big layoff is after the last flight, whenever that happens, in 2011.
The shuttle program will maintain a workforce of about 300 employees, for awhile, even once it ends. The shuttle program manager says he's releasing an incredibly talented work force that he's convinced will find new purpose.
"It's going to benefit commercial spacecraft companies," said John Shannon. "It's going to benefit aviation companies, electronics companies. They are finding jobs even in this incredibly difficult economy."
So what happens to Discovery after its last flight? It will be a display, but it will also be taken apart for research, testing, and spare parts for the remaining shuttles.