Sunday, April 1, 2012

"60 Minutes" on Space Coast Job Losses

Click the arrow to watch the "60 Minutes" segment on the loss of jobs in Brevard County after the end of the Space Shuttle.

The 60 Minutes segment on job losses aired tonight.

Below is a comment I posted on the web site in response to the segment, expressing my opinion.

Sorry, Mr. Pelley, but you got some things wrong in this segment and you misled your viewers in much of the rest.

Let's start with your implication that Obama broke his promise to help with jobs here in the Space Coast.

The fact is that in April 2010 Obama directed the creation of a Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development. Its objective was to create "an interagency action plan to facilitate economic development strategies and plans along the Space Coast and to provide training and other opportunities for affected aerospace workers so they are equipped to contribute to new developments in America's space program and related industries."

The report was issued on August 15, 2010. The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) issued a request for applications from entities interested in funding to create jobs in the Space Coast.

Congress, however, failed to provide the funding for this $35 million program. When the GOP took over the House in January 2011, they blocked the funding so it died.

You said Obama cancelled Constellation, but you didn't say why.

Constellation was years behind schedule and billions over budget. It received a number of bad audits from the independent Government Accountability Office. The last audit said that Constellation "lacked a sound business case."

Ares I was the rocket being designed under Constellation that was to provide crew access to the International Space Station. It had only one test flight after years of design and billions spent. The first Ares I crew flight wasn't going to be until 2017.

But here's the key fact you failed to disclose -- Ares I was going to be funded by decommissioning the ISS in 2015. In short, the Ares I was being built to go to a place that would no longer exist when it was finally ready to launch.

You also failed to tell your viewers that President Bush cancelled the Shuttle in January 2004, and you failed to tell them why. The Shuttle was cancelled because the Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that the Shuttle was "a complex and risky system," to use their own words. Bush announced that the Shuttle would fly only to finish the ISS, and then it would be retired. Congress agreed, so in 2004 the clock started on ending the Shuttle and replacing it with something else.

In the very first Senate hearing on January 28, 2004, then-NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said there would be a minimum four-year gap after the end of Shuttle, during which time we'd rely on Russia. So that decision was made eight years ago, and it was approved by Congress.

Finally, regarding the Shuttles bar ... At one time, it had all Shuttle memorabilia, but the owner removed much of it and replaced it with a sports motif. The service was terrible and the food was mediocre. My wife and I stopped going there because it sometimes took an hour to have our meals delivered to the table. The King's Duck Inn, two miles down the road, does extremely well and is packed even on weeknights.

And as for the video you showed of Miracle City Mall in Titusville, that's been a derelict since the 1970s after Apollo ended. You failed to mention that the Titusville city council has approved a revitalization program for Miracle City Mall that should draw back shoppers. Had they done so years ago, it wouldn't be a ghost town today.

Mr. Pelley, I'm very disappointed with this piece because you did so well with the SpaceX segment. I hope you run a segment where you explain the facts to your viewers about how we got to where we are today.

UPDATE April 3, 2012 — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden posted a blog responding to the 60 Minutes segment.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a story that captured some of what the space shuttle era meant to Florida’s Space Coast. Unfortunately, the piece also missed an awful lot of important context about the end of that era and where we’re headed from here.


  1. the Obama administraton did lie to the space workers flat out. When he came to the space center to give the I support space speech, the O&C building was evacuated and his own audience replaced the real workers and he lied again. His cronies in the meeting asked the pre-screened questons and made thnis idiot look smart-he is not, he is a two faced, back-stabbing liar. He and his socilistic ideology destroyed the American space program.

    I am very disappointed in you Stephen C. Smith for thinking all this is based on another administration. Your pro Obama stacne is a disgrace to Brevard county.

    1. Hmmm, the man you call a "Socialist" is replacing the inefficient, slow, bureaucratic Oligopoly of Boeing and LockMart with a lower cost Private sector solution.

      Do you know what Socialism means?

      In case you don't- Keeping the status quo (Inefficient Government Managed Launch Operations) would have been "Socialist".

      I think, Mr Titusville, that your demonstrated levels of education and reasoning skills might actually be worse than your spelling and grammar.

      Sadly, Fox News is clearly giving you quite the replacement "education" now.

  2. "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time".
    Abraham Lincoln

    I have always thought of this as one of his best quotes, but I wonder what he would be saying today, in this age of denial. It seems like noone is really that interested in what is truth and what is not. Sad.

  3. Well written, Mr Smith!

    Here is what I posted on CBS/60 minutes site as well as others- before seeing your post (yours is better) Thanks for helping hold CBS' feet to the fire.

    Last night’s 60 minutes piece on the space coast was… well less than stellar. Just few weeks back, 60 minutes ran a piece about Space X, the most likely US based organization to take Astronauts back to Space. Later this month Space X will take an unmanned capsule up the Station- the same size/configuration as the one which will take humans back up there.

    The idea from last night’s piece that we are simply laying off thousands while abandoning Space is fallacious and just bad reporting; especially given the previous report on the same program.

    As advanced as it was- The Space Shuttle it was built from a – forced by Nixon – NASA/Airforce compromise and frankly- the shuttle was dangerous, with a 1 in 100 chance of mission failure.

    As to our current lack of US launch capability- a similar human launch pause occurred between ’75 and ’81 as we transitioned from Apollo to Shuttle.

    In Early 2004, 11 months after the Columbia tragedy, Bush did sponsor the Constellation shuttle replacement plan- but it was never properly funded, and realistically would not have gotten us the the ISS and beyond any faster than the current plan.

    No one is ceding leadership in space.

    I feel for the workers, I do – but in any change in tech, there is some (very painful!) dislocation- Look at Steel Towns, look at Detroit, look at Oil towns in the 80′s, etc. No one “picked on” Brevard County workers- many of whom were well paid, and had known Shuttle was ending for 8+ years.

    Space leadership in this century should mean getting there reliably, affordably, and often!, with the capability to go further, and learn more. Perhaps the programs should generate a technology spin-off or two to help the general economy.

    Ironically, given our fear of lack of industrial competitiveness with China- Space X can get to Space for ~70% of China’s cost! Why aren’t we more proud of THAT?

    Space should no longer be a cold war program, or a jobs program. Lets re-train these workers, get them some health benefits- And lets focus on getting Boeing, Lockheed, etc more efficient so that they can compete with the small upstarts that are coming in this field. No need for massive layoffs if the enterprise is competitive and satisfies it customer(s) in the first place.

    I hope next time the 60 Minutes producers do their homework. Last night’s piece was nothing but poorly researched pander. If the news team really cared about reporting on Space leadership- instead of focusing on one unfortunate result of the policy changes- CBS news should have done better research and presented the actual “why” of these layoffs.

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