NASA reawakens after furloughed slumber
The shutdown of the U.S. government left most of NASA’s doors locked, but this morning brought a bright spot with offices reopening, multiple Twitter accounts awakening from silence, and other life signs throughout the internet. Space enthusiasts and media outlets kept the public abreast of goings-on during the blackout, and with commercial and international partnerships in place, the ISS has been fully supported during this period.
Mission Control at Johnson Space Center provided a skeletal crew to support the ISS through the course of the shutdown, and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus resupply capsule, which arrived at the ISS on September 29. will be departing on October 22. ESA’s cargo ship, the “Albert Einstein,” which has been docked to the ISS since June will be leaving at the end of the month.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN or “Maven” orbiter to Mars was granted an exception from the federal government’s shutdown, and was able to resume operations in early October, allowing the mission to stay on track for its November 18 launch window. Missing that date would have delayed launch until 2016, due to orbital mechanics. In addition to its mission to study Mars’ upper atmosphere and unlock the mysteries surrounding the planet’s loss of water reserves, Maven carries communication equipment to take over that job, should the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey, both operating past their lifetimes.
Thankfully, some of NASA’s other efforts were able to continue on during the furlough period.
JUNO, which left Earth for Jupiter two years ago, completed its slingshot maneuver around Earth and is currently Jupiter-bound. A glitch which put the orbiter into safe mode was resolved, and the mission is continuing as expected.
LADEE, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, settled into lunar orbit a few days ago, and will now orbit the Moon to gather detailed information about lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.
NASA’s Mars Rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, continued to work on the red planet’s surface. Despite the shutdown, they have been taking photographs and sending them back to Earth the entire time the federal government was partially shuttered.
NASA TV is back up as well (playing historical footage), and www.nasa.gov is back on line. NASA tweeted this afternoon, “Thanks to the 5+ mil. of you who follow us & those who filled in w/ #ThingsNASAMightTweet while we were out. Now it’s #ThingsNASACanTweet.”
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