NASA grounded by government shutdown

Story highlights

  • About 97% of the U.S. space agency is furloughed
  • Space Station astronauts, Mission Control will stay on the clock
  • NASA takes to social media to respond to shutdown

Two U.S. astronauts in space, and their support staffs on Earth, will keep working through the government shutdown that began Tuesday.

But almost all the rest of NASA has been shuttered, just one of many federal agencies affected when the government shut down at midnight Tuesday because of Congress' inability to pass a budget.

Many of those agencies took to social media and other online venues to share the news. Twitter was a popular choice for the messages.

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Among them? If an asteroid starts hurtling toward Earth ... well ... good luck.

"In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account," NASA's Near Earth Object Office tweeted from its @AsteroidWatch account Monday, just hours before the deadline in Congress. "We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon."

The office is responsible for tracking and reporting asteroids that threaten the planet, like the 150-foot chunk of space rock that came closer to Earth than the moon in February.

The office later noted that observatories, academics and other astronomers continue to monitor the skies.

In all, about 18,000 NASA employees, or 97% of its work force, were furloughed on Tuesday.

Among those still working will be astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Which may be just as well -- it's not like they could get away from the office even if they wanted to.

NASA's Mission Control will also stay open to support astronauts Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins.

"To protect the life of the crew as well as the assets themselves, we would continue to support planned operations of the ISS [space station] during any funding hiatus," reads a NASA furlough plan submitted last week. "Moreover, NASA will be closely monitoring the impact of an extended shutdown to determine if crew transportation or cargo resupply services are required to mitigate imminent threats to life and property on the ISS or other areas."

Other NASA spacecraft, like the Curiosity Rover on Mars and the New Horizons craft hurtling toward Pluto, will be largely left to their own devices (literally) during the shutdown.

The funding mess may be enough to have them all jealous of the Voyager 1 space probe, which was launched into space in 1977. Last month, NASA confirmed that the original Voyager left the solar system.

Maybe the Voyager 2 probe, in protest of the impasse in Congress, will follow suit.