Happy Birthday NASA, Take The Day Off!

Oct 02, 13 Happy Birthday NASA, Take The Day Off!

Most of us would enjoy being able to take a day (or more) off to celebrate our birthdays. However, I don’t think this is what NASA had in mind.

The federal agency that sent men to the moon, that revealed the deepest secrets of the Universe, and is paving the way for colonies on other worlds, turned 55 years old yesterday. A look at the below graphic shows a glimpse of what NASA has accomplished during its history, and what it seeks to do in the future.

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

But the vast majority of NASA employees, about 97 percent, were not at work. Obviously, the reason for this is not as a celebration of 55 years of achievement, but rather due to the stalemate in the legislature that has grinded the federal government to a halt.

Only those employees that are critical to the safety of human lives – like those aboard the International Space Station (ISS) – or to orbiting satellites are at their posts today.

There are currently six astronauts aboard the ISS, so a support staff that will continue to monitor and support their activities during the funding hiatus. NASA is also creating a contingency plan should the shutdown continue for an extended period, which would necessitate re-supplying those on the ISS.

Additionally, any satellite that is currently in its operational phase(actively taking data, or performing its designed function) will be supported by NASA employees on the ground to ensure safety of the satellites (they occasionally have to be maneuvered in order to avoid collisions) and that the hardware remains operational.

There may be other instances for which employees may be asked to stick around for “other activities involving protection of life and property,” according to the NASA contingency plan.

However, those that are being asked to stay likely must do so without pay. Even though they will be performing their normal duties, the lapse in government funding will limit any and all government expenditures.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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John P. Millis, Ph.D., is professor of physics and astronomy at Anderson University, in Anderson Indiana. He teaches a wide variety of courses while maintaining an active research program in high energy astrophysics.

His research focus is on pulsars, pulsar wind nebulae, and supernova remnants. Using the VERITAS gamma-ray observatory in southern Arizona, he studies the very high energy radiation from these dynamic sources to extract information about their formation and emission mechanisms. Dr. John received his B.S. in physics at Purdue University and remained there for the completion of his Ph.D., where he focused on High Energy Astrophysics. When not teaching or writing about physics and space, Dr. John enjoys spending time with his family, tickling the keys on his piano and playing a wide variety of sports.

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