updated 3/31/2004 6:23:18 PM ET 2004-03-31T23:23:18

Lockheed Martin cut 65 jobs at a NASA plant Wednesday, two months after President Bush announced a plan to abandon the space shuttle program by the end of the decade.

The Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which employs about 2,000 workers, produces external fuel tanks used to get shuttles into orbit.

Lockheed Martin said the fuel tanks will become obsolete under Bush’s plan to scrap the shuttle program in favor of building a space station on the moon and sending astronauts to Mars.

Spokesman Harry Wadsworth said the company, which employs most of the workers at the plant, has turned its attention to correcting any possible problems with the design of the tanks, rather than producing new ones following the space shuttle Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003.

An independent panel that looked into the accident found that the shuttle’s destruction during re-entry was caused by a chunk of foam — applied at the Michoud plant — that flew off the external tank and slammed into the shuttle’s left wing.

However, the panel found that work done at the plant bore no responsibility for the breakup of the shuttle and the deaths of all seven astronauts aboard.

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