On the 55th anniversary of the day it began operations, NASA has been forced to furlough 97 percent of its workforce in accordance with the government shutdown.
According to the plan for shutdown, NASA is required to furlough nearly all of its 18,250 employees. The plan would allow for 367 full time employees to stay on the job to support activities which are exempt from the shutdown, such as operations related to the International Space Station and other NASA satellites.
NASA has been forced to furlough a greater percentage of its employees than any other agency affected by the shutdown. Being forced to send 97 percent of its workforce home, President Obama stated that “NASA will shutdown almost entirely,” going on to say that, “Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the space station.”
The shutdown could potentially delay the launch of the Mars MAVEN mission, which is slated for November 18. The mission has a narrow launch window, which if missed could push back the launch to 2016. However, NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, will continue operating despite the government shutdown. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates the rover, is a private contractor and thus its staff are not among the NASA employees that have been furloughed.
NASA’s online presence is also impacted by the shutdown, with the newly redesigned NASA.gov now displaying this message, “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.” Additionally, NASA’s social media accounts have either halted all activity or disappeared entirely, as was the case with NASA’s Facebook page. NASA’s Twitter account posted this message on Monday in response to the shutdown, “Sorry, but we won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Be back as soon as possible.”
All of this occurring on the same day that NASA was supposed to be celebrating the 55th anniversary of the day agency began operations on October 1, 1958.