Obama Will Not Abandon Astronauts in Space During Government Shutdown

<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Astronaut-EVA.jpg">Robert L. Gibson</a>/NASA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced that, due to the government shutdown, NASA is going offline almost entirely. However, Obama emphasized that Mission Control will stay open to support the astronauts serving on the International Space Station. Although this isn’t much comfort to the majority of NASA’s 18,000 employees, it’s great news for at least two astronauts: Mike Hopkins and Karen Nyberg, who are currently aboard the ISS.

The ISS orbits somewhere between 230 and 286 miles above the Earth’s surface. A memo drafted by the Office of Management and Budget details how NASA plans to navigate the shutdown, and states that, “to protect the life of the crew as well as the assets themselves, we would continue to support planned operations of the ISS during any funding hiatus… 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.” (Weirdly enough, the shutdown began on the same week that Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, hits theaters. The acclaimed new film is about two American astronauts stranded in space.)

Hopkins is a Missouri-born colonel in the US Air Force who enjoys backpacking and weight-lifting. Nyberg, born in Minnesota, is an mechanical engineer and the 50th woman in space. She is also the first to operate three robotic arms in space, and can also sew toy dinosaurs in space. Here are a couple of the (fortunately not stranded) astronauts’ tweets from the ISS:

The shutdown coincides with NASA’s 55th anniversary. Among the many consequences of the shutdown is that the space agency’s Near Earth Object Office will not be allowed to use Twitter to warn America about any potential world-annihilating asteroids headed our way.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend