Engineers may be quaking over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's announcement last month that it may cut 5,000 space shuttle-related jobs over the next five years. But space science researchers are viewing the move as nonthreatening, or even as a boon.

In a January 6 speech broadcast to NASA employees, Robert Crippen, the new director of the Kennedy Space Center and a former shuttle astronaut, said that if Congress cuts the agency's budget it will be the space shuttle program that feels most of the pain.

Forward-looking programs such as the space station and Mars mission, which traditionally have borne the brunt of the budget ax, will be conserved. NASA officials say engineers and contractors, primarily those not currently at Kennedy Space Center, would be the ones most likely to lose their jobs.

"It is NASA's ambition, and rightfully so, to be doing other exciting things and exploring new...

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