October 2, 2013
Just before 11 p.m. Monday night, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft sent this message via Twitter:
Due to government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves.
— NASAVoyager2 (@NASAVoyager2) October 1, 2013
Of course, it wasn’t Voyager sending the tweet, it was Voyager’s handlers here on Earth.
But the slight whiff of snarkiness coming from the intrepid spacecraft that’s hurtling through deep space — and depending very much on government funding to do so — highlights the powerful impact this shutdown has on science and the nation’s scientific agencies.
At NASA, Mission Control in Houston remains active to support the crew aboard the International Space Station. But nearly all other space agency operations have ground to a halt. Most of the agency’s 18,000 employees have been placed on furlough, spacecrafts and satellites not yet launched are grounded and while the Hubble Space Telescope will continue peering into far flung galaxies, no one will be there to collect the data.
“If a satellite mission has not yet been launched, work will generally cease on that project,” NASA’s shutdown plan reads. “The extent of support necessary and the time needed to safely cease 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).”
Work preparing for the Mars MAVEN mission, which was slated for a Nov. 18 launch, for example, has stopped, and could delay the craft’s planned mission to Mars.