Shutdown Puts The Hurt On NASA But Won’t Stop Curiosity Rover

The greeting at NASA’s website this morning. Credit: NASA

Don’t bother going to NASA’s website today. You’ll be greeted by another unfortunate consequence of the U.S. government shutdown. NASA has closed its doors and many of its websites including the Spitzer Space Telescope, the New Horizons mission to Pluto and many more. Some links like the Solar Dynamics Observatory and Curiosity rover websites are still working, but they may not be updated.

Curiosity and Opportunity rovers will continue to operate despite the shutdown. It was only days ago that Curiosity discovered that a significant amount of water was bound up in Martian soil grains. Credit: NASA

The good news? All missions operated out of the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) will operate as usual for at least a week. These include Curiosity; Opportunity; Odyssey; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; Cassini; Dawn; Juno; Spitzer; the Voyagers; and WISE, among many others – according to blogger Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society.  APL runs the Mercury MESSENGER and New Horizons missions to Pluto.

They can do this because they’re private agencies that contract with the government. JPL is run by the California Institute of Technology. Both JPL and APL will monitor the shutdown and decide how long to continue operations on a week-to-week basis. For more information, check out Emily’s blog.

Now that we know Curiosity’s still rolling, we’ll hopefully see the much-anticipated photos from the Comet ISON shoot that began on Sept. 29 and continues today and tomorrow.

Still, bad news weighs heavily on the people and projects connected to space enterprise. With 97 percent of NASA’s more than 18,000 employees forced to go on furlough, only essential personnel will remain on the job to keep an eye on the International Space Station and ensure the safely of the astronauts.

All NASA social sites are down and all public NASA events and activities are cancelled or postponed. Astronomers will still be able to use the Hubble Space Telescope but the team that analyzes the photos and date at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore won’t be coming to work.