The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space shuttle program is key to implementing the President's vision for space exploration, which calls for completing the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of the decade. Currently, the space shuttle, which is to be retired after ISS assembly is completed, is the only launch system capable of transporting ISS components. To meet the goals of the President's vision and satisfy ISS's international partners, NASA is examining alternative launch vehicles and ISS configurations. Retiring the space shuttle and, in the larger context, implementing the President's vision, will require NASA to rely on its most important asset--its workforce. Because maintaining a skilled workforce through retirement will be challenging, GAO was asked to discuss the actions NASA has taken to sustain a skilled space shuttle workforce and the challenges it faces in doing so--findings reported on in March 2005 (see GAO, Space Shuttle: Actions Needed to Better Position NASA to Sustain Its Workforce through Retirement, GAO-05-230).
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