How To Keep NASA Talent In Houston

Space shuttle Atlantis is on its way back for a final landing tomorrow morning. With the shuttle program over — NASA now has hundreds of scientists and engineers who will soon be out of work. Houston officials are trying to keep that talent here in the region.

After Atlantis touches down at Kennedy Space Center a lot of people wonder what shuttle program employees will end up doing.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she's concerned about the brain drain that could happen if Johnson Space Center employees take jobs elsewhere.

"NASA has spent literally millions of dollars over the decades of the buildup of the space program assembling some of the finest scientists and engineers here in Houston, in Florida, in Alabama, to work on various aspects of our space program. And I don't want to see those great skills broken up and drift away."

Parker says Houston has the capacity to absorb many of those employees into the energy and medical industries. But she's also trying to make Houston the hub for privatized space jobs.

"If we're going to go to the private sector, it absolutely makes sense to try to bring as much of those competitive processes here into the Houston where you already have the people who can do the work. It's an uphill battle. We're working with Bay Area Economic Partnership, the Greater Houston Partnership, we're working with our congressional delegation. We have an investment by the U.S. taxpayers, an investment that's very important to the residents and taxpayers of this area, let's try to bring those companies here and utilize the resources here."

It's estimated that hundreds of JSC employees and contractors will leave NASA in the coming weeks.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...