"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
Government shutdown stops MAVEN work; threatens Mars launch
The upcoming Nov. 18 blastoff of NASA’s next mission to Mars – the “breathtaking beautiful” MAVEN orbiter – is threatened by today’s (Oct. 1) shutdown of the US Federal Government. And the team is very “concerned”, although not yet “panicked.”
MAVEN’s on time launch is endangered by the endless political infighting in Washington DC. And the bitter gridlock could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars or more on this mission alone!
Why? Because launch preparations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) have ceased today when workers were ordered to stay home, said the missions top scientist in an exclusive to Universe Today.
The nominal interplanetary launch window for NASA’s $650 Million MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission) mission to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere only extends about three weeks until Dec. 7.
If MAVEN misses the window of opportunity this year, liftoff atop the Atlas V rocket would have to be postponed until early 2016 because the Earth and Mars only align favorably for launches every 26 months.
Any launch delay could potentially add upwards of tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in unbudgeted costs to maintain the spacecraft and rocket – and that’s money that NASA absolutely does not have in these fiscally austere times.
MAVEN and much of NASA are not considered “essential” – despite having responsibility for hundreds of ongoing mission operations costing tens of billions of dollars that benefit society here on Earth. So about 97% of NASA employees were furloughed today.
Image credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com