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Government Businesses NASA United States

What a Government Shutdown Will Mean For NASA and SpaceX (theverge.com) 198

Ars Technica reports of how the government shutdown affects federal agencies like NASA, as well as commercial companies like SpaceX: So far, NASA has been keeping quiet about this particular shutdown and has been directing all questions to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond to a request for comment. But NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, told employees in an email obtained by The Verge to be on alert for directions over the next couple of days. "If there is a lapse in funding for the federal government Friday night, report to work the same way you normally would until further notice, and you will receive guidance on how best to closeout your activities on Monday," he wrote in the email. The most recent guidance from NASA, released in 2017, indicates that all nonessential employees should stay home during a shutdown, while a small contingent of staff continue to work on "excepted" projects. The heads of each NASA center decide which employees need to stay, but they're typically the people who operate important or hazardous programs, including employees working on upcoming launches or those who operate satellites and the International Space Station.

NASA's next big mission is the launch of its exoplanet-hunting satellite, TESS, which is going up on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida in March. So it shouldn't be affected by a shutdown (unless it takes a while to find a resolution). However, it's possible that preparations on another big spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope, may come to a halt, according to Nature. The space telescope is currently at NASA's Johnson Space Center for testing, but NASA's guidelines say that only spacecraft preparations that are "necessary to prevent harm to life or property" should continue during a shutdown. More immediately, an Atlas V rocket from the United Launch Alliance is launching a missile-detecting satellite tonight out of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, while SpaceX is slated to launch a communications satellite on January 30th. The timing of both launches may mean they avoid the shutdown. But if they did occur during the shutdown, it's unclear if they would suffer delays.

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What a Government Shutdown Will Mean For NASA and SpaceX

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  • by Koby77 ( 992785 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @03:20AM (#55966011)
    It seems to me that private company launches are more important than ever. Once they're funded, the petty politics can't shut down or delay a launch. Space exploration could move on without D.C.
    • Space exploration could move on without D.C.

      Because we know the rest of the world sure isn't going to do it.

    • And all programs that are already funded as part of the federal government are also not being suspended. This is allocating more money. But, e.g. the Smithsonian is staying open through the weekend because it had two more days of funding allocated a while ago.

  • All that happens is that give everyone a week off then give everyone a bonus later.

    If you look at the amount of money that given departments got over a year with or without a shutdown... and it works out to about the same.

    Its all political bullshit.

  • Learn from Australia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @05:00AM (#55966195)

    The Australian government can't shut down in practice, because in a "loss of supply" situation, the Prime Minister must resign or Parliament is dismissed and a fresh election is called for everyone, half term or not. (Or, if the PM chooses to do neither, be sacked as happened in 1975.)

    Learn, guys. Politicians aren't so quick to block supply if they are the ones who are going to be stood down.

    • We don't seem to have these "Shutdown" things in the UK either - at least I don't remember any and there certainly hasn't been one during the nearly 30 years that I have worked for the government. We had things like the "Three day week" back in the 1970s, but that was to conserve fuel supplies.

      But, perhaps I am taking a parochial view the UK and Australia are unusual in this respect. Can anyone come up with some examples of other nations that enjoy similar "budget confusion" based holidays?
      • Ireland triggered its safety valve in the early 80s IIRC. I think it's a feature of the Westminster system.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If a bill introducing a budget is defeated in Westminster, it is considered a vote of no confidence and a general election follows. There can be a budgetary hiatus until the election happens.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @06:33AM (#55966427)

      The Australian government can't shut down in practice

      Well no, it's unlikely to shutdown, as you said it has already happened in the past. Also it's quite interesting holding Australia up as an example of politicians working in their own interest. We have had an incredible number of double-dissolutions (parliament dissolved and politicians lose their jobs due to deadlock) to say nothing of the stubbornness that ultimately leads to an endless string of early elections, changing ministers, etc.

      The actual reason Australia doesn't have shutdowns like the USA is because bills of supply and appropriation shall not contain matters not related to supply or appropriation. I.e. It's not possible to discuss a budget while tacking on some stupid rider like DACA protections or CHIP. The only thing you can discuss is the budget and they are segregated into multiple documents that it is very unlikely for a single supply bill to shutdown the government. The only reason this happened in 1975 is because the fundamental fight was on the funding of the government and the loans the government was making.

      Whereas the USA sees the funding bills as opportunities to wave cocks around and force the other party to pass something unrelated.

      • Good point. It's more fair to say the system means we shouldn't have a shutdown, and there is punishment for not following the system.

        And yeah, Australian politicians are not paragons of selflessness.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        The actual reason Australia doesn't have shutdowns like the USA is because bills of supply and appropriation shall not contain matters not related to supply or appropriation. I.e. It's not possible to discuss a budget while tacking on some stupid rider like DACA protections or CHIP. The only thing you can discuss is the budget and they are segregated into multiple documents that it is very unlikely for a single supply bill to shutdown the government. The only reason this happened in 1975 is because the fund

      • This is true, and the solution to this problem is available, it's just not as widely known as it should be. Tell everyone you know about One Subject At A Time Act [downsizedc.org]!

    • Learn, guys. Politicians aren't so quick to block supply if they are the ones who are going to be stood down.

      It's too late now. We can't fix that without amending the constitution, or having a revolution, because congress sure ain't going to pass an amendment making them responsible for anything.

    • Big Deal? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @09:36AM (#55966771)

      The US had a month-long "shutdown", I believe, in the late 90's. Most of the federal government stopped working, except the military, FBI and federal hospitals. The vast majority of US citizens didn't notice a difference.
       

  • Houston, we're shutting down; will get back to you in a few

  • Does this mean the James Webb Space Telescope is going back into the freezer?

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday January 20, 2018 @09:35AM (#55966765)

    There is a better way to prevent shutdowns:

    A) Fed no longer allowed to borrow any money
    B) Fed adjusts taxes to match spending

    Yep, it is just that simple. Spend only what you make. Chose your poison- either raise taxes or cut spending or both. And when they find that is really, really hard, then they should re-read the Constitution about what the Fed is supposed to doing (hint: probably 90% of the spending isn't really Constitutional).

    • B) Fed adjusts taxes to match spending

      Yep, it is just that simple. Spend only what you make.

      This is America. As a citizen, I'm pretty sure the right to spend money on stuff you don't have is covered by the 28th amendment.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!

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