The government shutdown that started on Friday will force NASA to stop all of its non-essential activities and could hinder coverage of spaceflight events planned for the end of the year.
According to Space.com, NASA and many other government agencies didn’t get new budget after a continuing resolution (CR) that had been funding them expired. NASA is funded by the commerce, justice and science appropriations bill, one of seven yet to be passed by Congress. Five other bills, including for the Defense Department, have been passed, and those agencies are not affected by the shutdown.
Congress appeared to be on track to avoid a shutdown when the Senate approved on a voice vote Dec. 19 another CR that would run through Feb. 8. However, House leaders, after consulting with President Donald Trump, amended that CR by adding $5 billion in border security funding. That CR, approved by the House on a party-line vote Dec. 20, is considered dead in the Senate because of opposition to that additional funding.
With Congress and the White House at an impasse, funding for at least part of the government lapsed for the third time in 2018. A brief lapse in February, lasting only about eight hours, had no effect on government operations. A shutdown in January lasted three days, temporarily interrupting activities.
Meanwhile, operations aboard the International Space Station will continue pretty much as before, and NASA won’t have to cancel important upcoming spaceflight events such as the OSIRIS-REx probe’s Dec. 31 orbital insertion around the asteroid Bennu, or the New Horizons spacecraft’s Jan. 1 flyby of the distant object Ultima Thule.
“However, if a satellite mission has not yet been launched, unfunded work will generally be suspended on that project,” NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said earlier this week.
“The extent of support necessary and the time needed to safely suspend project activities will depend on whether any of the activities are of a hazardous nature (e.g., parts of the satellite may need to be cooled),” DeWit added.