Government shutdown 2018: How it affects NASA

By Mike Wall
December 24, 2018, 3:26:33 PM EST

The United States government just shut down for the third time this year, and a lot of NASA employees will be staying home as a result.

The partial shutdown went into effect Saturday (Dec. 22) at midnight EST (0500 GMT), after the White House and Congress failed to hammer out a funding agreement.

Most NASA personnel will be furloughed until such an agreement is reached, agency officials explained recently in a shutdown FAQ. "Most" is something of an understatement, in fact; about 95 percent of NASA employees won't be able to go to work.

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The International Space Station, photographed by an astronaut aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in February 2010.Credit: NASA


But don't panic: There are "excepted" employees, such as the folks responsible for keeping NASA people and property safe. And "property" includes currently operational spacecraft, as well as the data they collect.

So, operations aboard the International Space Station will continue pretty much as before, and NASA won't have to cancel important upcoming spaceflight events such as the OSIRIS-REx probe's Dec. 31 orbital insertion around the asteroid Bennu, or the New Horizons spacecraft's Jan. 1 flyby of the distant object Ultima Thule.

"However, if a satellite mission has not yet been launched, unfunded work will generally be suspended on that project," NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit wrote earlier this week in a memo to James Hertz, Program Associate Director at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

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