With the launch of Atlantis three weeks away, Barbara Kennedy is focused, and not just on the job at hand...
Inside the launch control center, Kennedy has worked on EVERY space shuttle launch for the past 24 years. But once THIS mission ends, so does her job with United Space Alliance, NASA's biggest contractor.
Barbara is a single mom with a son heading off to college. On July 22nd, she'll be unemployed. She says:
"I'm thankful that we have another launch to keep us busy, so it kind of keeps your mind off the impending deadline. But it's coming. And you think about it a lot."
23-hundred shuttle workers will lose their jobs in July, on top of 43-hundred who already have. Brevard County has lost more jobs in the last year than any other county in the state.
Florida's Space Coast is trying to lure new companies with incentives like tax breaks and grants for employee training, but they see the vast NASA talent pool as their main draw.
Lynda Weatherman says:
"If you think about it, we have an area of workers that are three generations deep in working in the space industry. You can't, there's not an incentive in the world that can create that."
It was a big selling point for Brazilian jet maker Embraer. The company opened a new 80,000 square foot assembly plant here in February. So far, they've hired 18 former shuttle workers.
Phill Krull, managing director of Embraer says there are nearly 5,000 people applying for 200 jobs.
Defense Department contractor A-A-R moved in down the street in April, bringing 225 jobs. Joe Urich was hired six weeks after being laid off.
AAR Airlift Employee Joe Urich says:
"I feel badly for my past co-workers who are still unemployed. It's hard to see them struggle at the same time while I'm being able to maintain."
Barbara Kennedy spends all of her spare time at job fairs and networking meetings. She's selling her house, down-sizing, and sending out resumes.
"There's good days and there's bad days. Gee, what am I gonna do. It's just it's uncertain. So you do get a little nervous about that. But I think I never give up. Just never give up."
Determination that helped her rise at NASA and just may launch her into a new career.