The government shutdown has ended and NASA is back to business but it might take a little longer for the U.S. space agency to return to normal operations.
According to Casey Dreier, the chief advocate and senior space policy adviser of The Planetary Society, the recovery from the effects of the shutdown could take time.
"You can't just turn off and on the US space program like a flashlight," he stated. "You have to warm it up and get it back into a coherent and functioning system that involves tens of thousands of people."
NASA Administrator Addresses Employees
On Tuesday, Jan. 29, after a record-breaking government shutdown, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine held a town hall meeting at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the space agency to address the employees. He revealed that some did leave the space agency due to the 35-day government shutdown. He also promised that everyone will get their back pay as soon as possible.
However, for the contractors — tens of thousands of people who are employed in companies funded by the government to do work for NASA — the situation is less clear. Some companies have received funding before the shutdown and therefore, have nothing to worry about. Bridenstine said that some contractors will also be able to receive back pay. However, some will not.
While employees want to help by launching and contributing in crowdfunding efforts to pay contractors, Bob Gibbs, the chief human capital officer of the space agency, warned about potential legal problems. He could not say whether donations were permitted.
Other Work Issues
Another effect of the shutdown is the 35 websites across NASA that have been taken offline. Some have expired security certificates. The space agency is currently working on bringing the websites back online.
Bridenstine said that it might take longer than 35 days for NASA to recover. While critical operations continued, some had to be shelved during the government shutdown. The selection of the next planetary missions as part of the New Frontiers and Discovery programs might be delayed. The flight tests for the NASA Commercial Crew Program has also been moved to a later date.
Gibbs added that they would not be able to know the real impact of the government shutdown to the workforce for "probably some period of time."