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Hubble telescope camera is broken and US government shutdown could delay repairs (nature.com)
79 points by Someone 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

“In a nutshell, the government shutdown should not impact our response to the anomaly with WFC3,” she said. “The primary people we need in the Flight and Science Operations will be available to troubleshoot. A tiger team has already been activated.”

Source: https://gizmodo.com/hubble-space-telescope-faces-more-hardwa...

I was honestly wondering how/why a government shutdown would effect NASA in any broad measure. It doesn't look like, from skimming the article, Nature even interviewed a single person. It's all just conjecture. Sloppy journalism is one of the biggest reasons the press is not trusted more broadly.

The quote is actually from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which receives funding from NASA but is not directly part of it and therefore is not immediately affected by the shutdown.

However, as the Nature article discusses, parts of NASA that work with Hubble are affected.

The general impact of the shutdown on NASA has been widely reported:


> Most NASA personnel will be furloughed until such an agreement is reached, agency officials explained recently in a [shutdown FAQ](https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/shutdow...). "Most" is something of an understatement, in fact; about 95 percent of NASA employees won't be able to go to work.

Just as anecdata, my neighbor, working at NASA (Moffett) seems to be on furlough.

Yes, almost all folks at Moffett (NASA Ames Research Center) are US government employees, just as at NASA Goddard. They will be on furlough unless their job is essential.

STScI/APL in Baltimore, like JPL in Pasadena, are technically contractors. As described nearby, they are still at work like normal due to the float in money already sent (to Hopkins/APL or Caltech, respectively) but not yet dispersed.

Of course, those folks are looking on anxiously as this fiasco plays out, designing telescopes, probes, and rovers like usual, but with uneasy coffee room conversations.

It seems a bigger problem is sloppy reading, since the article addresses in part how NASA is effected by the shutdown.

Do you have additional commentary about the press now that other posters have provided more context to that quote from a website?

To provide some missing context bere, the Gizmodo quote is actually in regards to the work of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The Nature article discusses how different groups are affected differently by the shutdown:

> Hubble’s mission operations are based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where most employees are on involuntary leave during the shutdown. A few people who operate spacecraft that are actively flying, including Hubble, have been allowed to keep working.

> But fixing the telescope, which is almost 30 years old, will almost certainly require additional government employees who are forbidden to work during the shutdown. NASA has formed an investigative team, composed primarily of contractors and experts from its industry partners, to examine the technical troubles.

> ...

> The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which runs Hubble’s science operations, remains open for now, using money it received from NASA before the shutdown started. But many of Hubble’s technical experts are based at Goddard, which is closed.

Aliens have been waiting for this chance since years

I knew the aliens were colluding with Trump!

All of this distraction with building a wall, when we should have been building a roof.

So what's the problem with that? it's not like by delaying the repairs a few months that something worse will happen. Eventually when the government resumes, the telescope will be repaired. The only issue is that we may miss a few months of pictures (not saying that the Hubble is useless, just that by not working for a few months, nothing bad will happen)

As a by-side casual observer, if the military continue to get funded while civilian departments continue furlough for months if not years, would that creates some weird social dynamics?

All these workers (except potentially contractors) get backpay. Yeah, it sucks if they have no savings, but people I know in the fed are treating it like a vacation.

I’m pretty sure the ones forced to work without pay don’t feel like it’s a vacation. No way are air traffic controllers feeling the “beach vibe” and considering that about a third of TSA workers are calling in sick they seem to agree. It’s also pretty hard to have savings when your pay is shit, and hard to plan for insane political whims with indefinite expiration dates.

I hope the TSA is permanently shutdown.

they get 'unpaid overtime compensation,' which can amount to double pay. The ones furloughed are the ones that can take a vacation, obviously.

Do you have more info on that? Is it only for hourly employees? In the 2013 shutdown, the people I know who actually worked lost out. The "nonessential" personnel got backpay/reimbursed vacation hours, and the people that worked just got paid normally.

The problem isn't them eventually getting paid, the problem is them lacking money in their pockets right now to pay the bills they need to pay right now.

they should take out payday loans and sue the federal government for the interest, that would be a fun court case.

There's plenty of orgs offering government workers interest free loans.


Not all workers are going to be covered by interest free loans, and naturally there are going to be a lot of people scared by the prospect of not getting paid.

It's still a huge hassle for families to go through and have to deal with. That's assuming that you manage to get said loan without any other possible predatory circumstances attached.

Another interest free loan for government employees.


I believe federal employees still get a paycheck for missed time. Just they won't get it till government opens back up.

You keep missing that a lot of people can’t afford to live without being payed for an indefinite and undetermined interval. It’s a grossly unfair position to force people to work without pay because the government is run by the least among us. That’s not to say they don’t, some of them, have recourse. The issue is that they shouldn’t have to take out loans or beg from charities, or face exposure to scams and predatory lenders who hide among the legitimate outlets.

It’s time to emerge from the bubble and recognize that how you live is not how everyone lives, and maybe even develop a bit of empathy and compassion.

"The problem isn't them eventually getting paid, the problem is them lacking money in their pockets right now to pay the bills they need to pay right now."

That's the comment I was replying to. If they need money to pay their bills they can get a 0% loan for their missed paychecks.

There's obviously reasons to be pissed about the shutdown.

You’re seemingly confused about a few points, such as the difference between applying for a loan and receiving one, and the limits even when you manage to get one. Having said that if you’d like to defer your pay for an indefinite period and try to support yourself throug such loans, I’d read the blog.

Typically if a company told me 'look we can't afford to pay you right now, but we can get you some low-interest loans to cover you until we have more money', I'd bounce right the fuck out of there. I would still be owed money for work I did and could potentially sue to get it, but that doesn't make it any less of a pain in the ass.

That’s an application for a loan.

That’s for selected people, and $6k max. It won’t solve the problem, and it’s a bandaid that shouldn’t be necessary anyway. You don’t tell your employees to just hang on indefinitely and ask around for loans.

> All these workers (except potentially contractors) get backpay

Not automatically. Everyone just assumes that whatever funding bill eventually passes will include a backpay provision.

But in a legal sense, these jobs simply don't exist any more. No plan exists in law to pay these employees ever again.

If this were to continue for several months, I would assume that most of the employees would quit those departments, which would probably be catastrophic, both socially and economically.

It would be incredibly catastrophic, considering the FDA has stopped domestic food inspections among other things.

It's not going to continue past the end of January under any scenario.

Trump will go with a national emergency declaration (we've had 58 of those declared just since 1979) in an attempt to fund and build the wall the military route. That will be halted due to an injunction. Then it'll end up at the Supreme Court. Assuming the Democrats don't offer a compromise to Trump that is.

This could indeed be.

I thought your remark that there had been so many national emergencies was interesting. This turns out to be true — color me surprised.

Almost all of them seem to not involve spending money — they are prohibitions on money transfers. I assume this is where the emergency-for-wall would run into trouble, because it’s the Congress that appropriates money.

That just builds a wall, it doesn't address this problem. You can't use an emergency declaration to open the government. The theory here is that once Trump has declared victory, republicans are going to be willing to pass a bill without wall funding. It's not at all clear to me that this is how it will play out.

These shouldn't really be connected in a perfect society.

What "repair" option is there with STS gone?

Did they buy Device Protection via Square Trade?


Political micro-rants like these don't meet the standards of discussion on this site, though the speed at which you arrived at Nancy Pelosi's fridge is impressive.


As one of the engineers affected by this (Goddard Space Flight Center) I could not disagree with you more strongly.

Think of the children! I know thousands of people our out of work or working un-paid, but this is horrendous. Getting the government back online to prioritize Hubble repairs should be #1 priority!

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