[meteorite-list] NASA Shuts Down in Federal Government Funding Impasse

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 1 Oct 2013 15:59:00 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201310012259.r91Mx0f8006165_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NASA shuts down in federal government funding impasse
Spaceflight Now
October 1, 2013

With the federal government in partial shutdown, NASA is implementing
drastic, across-the-board furloughs that will severely curtail ongoing
research and development and shut down the agency's widely visited web
site and satellite television channels.

But officials say flight controllers will continue to oversee the operation
of the International Space Station, home to two NASA astronauts, an Italian
flier and three Russian cosmonauts, and provide uninterrupted support
for spacecraft in Earth orbit and across the solar system.

Of NASA's 18,250 civil servants, 16,135 -- nearly 90 percent -- will not
be allowed to work during the shutdown. Of the 2,115 who have been deemed
exempt, only 549 are considered full or part-time workers, cleared to
use agency offices and facilities as required.

Bob Jacobs, a senior public affairs officer at agency headquarters in
Washington, said the rest are "on call," ready to respond to an emergency
or some other contingency, but not allowed to go to work, even voluntarily,
or use NASA email, phones or other services to conduct official business.

According to a NASA "frequently asked questions" document, the shutdown
plan recognizes three major areas of exempted work:

        * Space launch hardware processing required to prevent "harm to life
or property"

        * International Space Station tracking, operation and support "and operating
satellites necessary for safety and protection of life and property"

        * "Completion or phase down of research activities in cases where serious
damage to property would result from temporary suspension of the activity"

"As far as the International Space Station goes, that operation continues,
because we obviously need to protect the lives of the six crew members
in orbit and of course, the safety and security of the space station and
other hardware," Jacobs said. "So those programs will continue.

"And our existing satellite missions that are in operation -- again, since
the overriding issue is to protect those assets -- we will continue to
collect the data and maintain them."

The Curiosity Mars rover, the Messenger probe in orbit around Mercury,
the Cassini Saturn mission, the Juno orbiter on the way to Jupiter, the
New Horizons spacecraft en route to Pluto and dozens of other spacecraft
will be monitored and controlled as usual.

How much returning data will reach researchers is unclear. Many university-based
scientists receive data from NASA spacecraft autonomously via the internet.
Whether those pathways will remain open is not yet known.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where many interplanetary
spacecraft are controlled, is operated by the California Institute of
Technology under contract to NASA.

A JPL spokeswoman said Monday a shutdown would not trigger any furloughs
there, but without NASA web support, photos and updates would not be widely

NASA's multiple websites are among the most widely viewed on the web.
During the furlough, however, the web sites effecticely will be shut down.
Early Tuesday, the NASA home page redirected viewers to a USA.gov site,
which showed a static page saying "due to the lapse in federal government
funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience."

Likewise, the agency's social media presence and its three satellite television
channels, carried by many cable companies across the nation, will be shut
down for the duration with no live updates on space station operations
or any others.

"Due to the lapse in government funding NASA Television will be unavailable
to the public, news organizations, satellite service providers and cable
television distributers," according to a notice on NASA's public TV channel.

"In addition, the NASA Television feeds from www.nasa.gov also will be
unavailable until further notice. We sincerely regret this inconvenience."

NASA faced a similar reduction in force when the government shut down
for five days in November 1995 and then again the following month when
a record 21-day shutdown was implemented. The former occurred during a
shuttle mission to the Russian Mir space station, forcing the agency to
operate the flight with a reduced staff.

This time around, the workforce reduction is more severe, but Jacobs said
the agency would do everything required to protect valuable resources,
even if normal processing is suspended.

"For space launch hardware, again, as necessary to protect the launch
vehicles and ensure the public safety, some of that processing will continue,"
he said.

But work on programs that are not time critical, like NASA's new Space
Launch System heavy-lift rocket, the Orion deep space exploration capsule
and the James Webb Space Telescope, will grind to a halt, including work
on NASA's next Mars probe, known as MAVEN, that is scheduled for launch
in November.

Depending on how long the government shutdown remains in effect, "MAVEN
could miss its scheduled launch date," Jacobs said. "And if that happens,
the next launch opportunity isn't until 2016."

In a Sept. 27 letter to the Office of Management and Budget, NASA's chief
financial officer said the agency would "narrowly construe the available
exceptions in determining which activities can continue" and exempt "only
those employees who contribute directly to those actions."

"All other employees would be furloughed immediately after an orderly
shutdown," the letter said. "Employees furloughed would be informed that
NASA cannot promise that they will be paid for the period during which
they are on furlough. Pay for those days would depend on future appropriations."
Received on Tue 01 Oct 2013 06:59:00 PM PDT

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