U.S. shutdown threatens launch of NASA’s next mission to Mars

The effects of the U.S. federal government shutdown are threatening to ripple out into the solar system.
NASA’s next mission to Mars, due to launch next month, is in danger of being delayed.
“We are just inside of seven weeks to launch and we are shut down,” Bruce Jakosky, the head of the mission, said late Wednesday.
The project, known as Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), aims to put a spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet to study how it lost much of its atmosphere and became a desolate world.
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MAVEN is currently scheduled to take off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 18 and has a 20-day launch window.

If it misses that opportunity, the team will have to wait more than two years for their next chance to launch, according to Jakosky, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Large parts of the U.S. government began shutting down early Tuesday, and there is so far little sign of a solution to the political crisis that caused the stoppages.
The shutdown has already had an effect on preparations for the Mars mission, with a launch dress rehearsal and mission readiness review canceled this week, Jakosky said.
The mission has some margin for delays in its schedule, he said, but “every day is gold. We hate to give up margin days.”

When the shutdown started to become a real prospect, MAVEN scientists began talking to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland in the hope that their project would be exempt, Jakosky said.
But it wasn’t.

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