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NASA is back to work, but the effects of the government shutdown linger



This week, thousands of civil servants and contractors are at work at NASA's various centers throughout the country following a record of 35-day government shutdown – but it will be a while before it's going to work as usual again at the agency. These first few days back on the job will be consumed with practical matters, such as figuring out employee back and how to dive back into projects. The shutdown will undoubtedly result in delays for some of NASA's long-term programs, too, but it'll be a while before the space agency can fully assess the extent of the damage.

One way to think about it is NASA What is just closed for one-year of the year, says Casey Dreier, chief advocate and senior space policy adviser at The Planetary Society. "You just can not turn off and on the US Space program like a flashlight," he says.

"You have to make it sound like a flashlight." ] Jim Bridenstine met employees during a meeting this afternoon at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC. "Welcome to 201

9," which was live-streamed on NASATV. The comment was met with applause from those in attendance, while Bridenstine went on to say it was a rough start to the year for the agency. In this dearly. "

Bridenstine told the room that some NASA employees did not leave during the shutdown, though it wasn ' t a substantial amount. "We did not have a mass exodus," he said. "I think this gone on longer, we would have. But we did not loose people – onesies and twosies – across the agency and even here at headquarters. That's absolutely true. "


Bridenstine addressing employees in the town hall.
(NASA / Bill Ingalls)

Those hit hardest at NASA were the agency's contractors. Ultimately, there are two types of employees at NASA – civil servants, or those directly employed by the government, and commercial contractors. Under federal law, NASA employees are entitled to backpay once a shutdown has ended. And Bridenstine mentioned that NASA's financial office worked through the weekend to make sure they received their backpay this week. NASA contractors, the situation is more complicated.

Each NASA has its own contract with the Agency. Some contractors were getting their funding in advance of the shutdown, allowing them to continue working mostly unfazed. However, the employees of the contractors did not receive funding in advance. And it's possible they'll never receive compensation for that time. "As you go about working, if you're a civil servant working for NASA, remember that person sitting next to you, who could be a contractor, may or may not get retroactive pay," Bridenstine said.

NASA to move forward easily. When some contractors did not get paid, they reassigned their employees to other non-NASA projects. And it's not just a matter of these employees coming back to work at NASA. "That human capital does not come back to NASA," Bridenstine said. "It stays on those other projects." He added that this prolongs the recovery process. "Now when we get back open, we have to hire new people and / or figure out how to get people back on the contracting side," he said. "So it's not a one-for-one delay. One day of shutdown does not equal one day of getting back into business. "

One of NASA's employees at the town hall asked Bridenstine if it's possible for NASA's civil servants to set up GoFundMe's accounts for the contractors hit hardest by the shutdown. Employees could run into legal conflicts. But employees were told to speak with their ethics counselors. NASA's cybersecurity during the shutdown.

NASA's cybersecurity officer said: "Just know this, I'm proud of being in charge of an agency." Renee Wynn, NASA's chief information officer, said the agency's cybersecurity was "in the most part, fully functional," but that's not all. 35 public-facing NASA websites, too, leaving them with jeopardized security and the information on them was not considered critical.

Overalls, the shutdown's long-term impact on NASA still remains to be seen. NASA originally estimated that 95 percent of its employees were furloughed during the shutdown, but Bridenstine said that the true number was less than that. And finally, many of NASA's critical programs – such as maintaining the International Space Station and the ongoing planetary mission – continued without delay. Work still progressed on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, the agency's initiative to send astronauts to SpaceX and Boeing's International Space Station on Private Vehicles.

But many of NASA's multi-year projects have been considered critical, and have suffered delays. NASA is in the middle of selecting new planetary mission to pursue, as part of its New Frontiers and Discovery programs – and the shutdown may have been delayed that process, says Dreier. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science, [back to the news] And there's uncertainty surrounding the new giant rocket NASA is working on the astronauts to the Moon and beyond, called the Space Launch System. Boeing, NASA still oversees the entire program. And Boeing told Politico that the shutdown delayed testing of the rocket's hardware.


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