Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Cape Canaveral, FL, United States (4E) – The government shutdown may mean a lot to a one-year-old Trump administration but it will not significantly affect the daily operations of NASA and private contractor SpaceX except for some workers to go home without pay.
A shutdown hit the federal government starting the weekend after the Senate failed to pass a temporary funding bill amid bipartisan attempts to avoid the snag but it won’t adversely affect the space agency’s big projects. The same positive prognosis is expected for SpaceX, a commercial company that depends on NASA for some of its hardware.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, in an email sent to employees obtained by The Verge, advised the employees to watch for further information, and possible directives, over the next few days.
“Report to work that same way you normally would until further notice, and you will receive guidance on how best to close out your activities on Monday,” Lightfoot wrote.
It is more likely that all non-essential employees may no longer report to work during the shutdown while a handful of staff will be required to work especially those assigned to dangerous programs.
Planned spacewalks for US astronauts aboard the International Space Station, for instance, will push through a few weeks from now despite the shutdown. Space station flight directors, communications experts, experts on robotics, and other personnel performing sensitive roles will be working for the planned spacewalk.
“When it comes to station operations, we have a plan,” said Kenny Todd, NASA’s ISS mission operations integration manager.
“Mission-essential, critical personnel will be on site, will be working, will be continuing the mission,” he said during a press conference a day before the shutdown, adding that “we don’t see that as any kind of impact going forward when it comes to our daily operations.”
NASA’s scheduled launch of exo-planet hunting satellite, TESS, with SpaceX will also push through as scheduled. TESS will piggyback aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. SpaceX is also scheduled to launch a communications satellite on January 30.
Another SpaceX project involving the test firing of its new Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be using NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, might experience some problems as numbers of staff at the center might be reduced.
SpaceX, however, remains optimistic that the shutdown won’t “affect its operations.”
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