The graying of NASA

Too focused on short-term labor problems, the agency "actually doesn't have a strategy" for post-shuttle staffing.

How will NASA put a man on the moon? Not with its current group of aging engineers. And not, apparently, with a new crop of engineers ready to spend their careers with the space agency. According to AP, a National Research Council reports finds NASA without a plan on how to staff 10 years from now.

The space agency has been too focused on short-term labor problems, such as what to do with some 900 employees whose work is ending along with the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle, the experts wrote. And there has not been enough attention on the type of skills needed in the future and the aging of the work force, they said.

"They actually don't have a strategy," said MIT aeronautics professor Daniel Hastings, who co-chaired the panel. "They're too focused on the short term."

The report notes that half of NASA's scientists and more than a quarter of its 10,700 engineers are eligible for retirement by 2011. When the space shuttle ends in 2010, many NASA employees and contractors will not have a role in the future of the agency, which needs different skill sets for manned trips to the moon and Mars.

"I thought they would have jumped on this a little sooner," Ray Haynes, an official at Northrop Grumman Space Technology who served on the panel, said of the agency's lack of a work force strategy. "Better later than not at all."

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