The economic woes created by the government shutdown are also grounding the nation's space agency and even threatening an unmanned mission to Mars, a former astronaut and U.S. senator says.
In expressing concern about the far-reaching effects of the two-day-old shutdown, U.S. Bill Nelson (D-FL) today cited reports that there is only a narrow window ending mid-December for the planned launch of the unmanned MAVEN spacecraft. Today, Nelson talked with committee staff about the possibility of an exemption. If the schedule is thrown off beyond that because of the shutdown, then it could be 2016 before another launch window.
"A handful of extremist lawmakers are starting to do an awful lot of damage, from the interruption of vital government services to a reduction in anti-terrorism intelligence gathering to the grounding of NASA," Nelson said. "Their behavior is irresponsible and reckless."
The Florida Democrat on the Senate floor yesterday decried the fact that more than 97 percent of the space agency's civilian workforce is being furloughed. Nelson is chairman of a Senate subcommittee overseeing NASA and he flew aboard the space shuttle in 1986 as a member of Congress.
He recently passed the plan for NASA that he coauthored and that involves NASA building a spacecraft to travel to deep space after being launched aboard a new monster rocket.