Centennial's United Launch Alliance taking off with smaller crew

United Launch Alliance, based in Centennial, is earning some nice ink today in relation to its Atlas V rocket, which is scheduled to boost the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) into space from a Florida launchpad at between 3:12 p.m. and 3:32 p.m. our time this afternoon. The mission is billed as the first step toward a return to the moon. But the excitement surrounding today's blastoff isn't accompanied by a boom at the Colorado company.

Budget cuts have taken a tremendous toll on all businesses affiliated with NASA, including ULA, which announced a series of 2009 layoffs last fall: 350 job cuts in February, with further trims possible (make that likely) by year's end. No doubt today's event will mark a welcome distraction from such problems. These days, space seems considerably less troubled than it is down here on Earth.

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