‘60 Minutes’ Talks with Florida Shuttle Workers

For 44 years, the CBS television news magazine ‘60 Minutes’ has set the bar for high-quality investigative reporting. Continuing the tradition, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley traveled to Bevard County, FL, where more than 7,000 men and women, many of them IAM members, lost their jobs when President Obama and NASA cancelled the manned space program.

In Hard Landing,’ workers, spouses and their neighbors describe the devastation that followed the decision to terminate the program that launched its first mission in 1981. The 7,000 layoffs at the space center triggered at least 7,000 additional layoffs in the surrounding community, bringing the area’s official unemployment figure to a staggering 11 percent.

One after another, workers describe the pride they felt in being part of the space program, arguably the greatest engineering accomplishment of all time. “It was the experience and the job of a lifetime,” declared crane operator Lou Hanna, who bluntly admits to being angry over the decision to terminate the shuttle program. “It doesn’t have to end this way. I mean it, it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t compute.”

Many like Hanna expected to transfer their skills and their enthusiasm to Constellation, the shuttle’s follow-on program.  But in 2010, President Obama cancelled Constellation and outsourced the development of a new spaceship to private enterprise. Then, Congress cut the funding for the Obama plan in half. At the very least it will be 5 years before America flies astronauts again.

Among the compelling interviews in ‘Hard Landing’ is one with Florida bankruptcy attorney Carole Bess, who describes meeting with workers considering suicide over their inability to pay their bills: “They felt like failures. You know, “Here I am. I can’t pay my debts. And I’m probably worth more dead than alive, if I have life insurance.”

Click here to view ‘Hard Landing.’