Despite Shutdown NASA Planetary Probes On the Job

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as seen in this illustration  is getting front-row seats to comet ISON as it swings by the Red Planet.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as seen in this illustration, is getting front-row seats to comet ISON as it swings by the red planet. Credit: JPL/NASA

No worries… yet. Despite the U.S. government shutdown and cancellation of most of NASA’s activities, the space agency’s fleet of planetary spacecraft will remain on the job, including its Mars rovers and orbiters. (Read: “NASA Hit by Government Shutdown.”)

That’s good news for the armada of robots recording  data streaming in from comet ISON as it swings by the red planet today. Some earlier reports on the Web erroneously stated that missions such as the Mars Curiosity rover would be put in “hibernation mode.”

Don’t expect to see any comet pictures released on NASA’s main websites during the shutdown, however. The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab, a NASA contractor that runs the HiRise camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, does plan on posting the latest images as soon as tomorrow.

Late this afternoon the HiRise team sent out a reassuring tweet to their followers:

HiRISE is still open for business and updates will continue as usual.

— HiRISE (@HiRISE) October 1, 2013

While there probably will be no NASA press releases on planetary missions during this government fiasco, space buffs are hoping some team members who are not supported directly by government funds will pick up the torch and offer mission updates to the public.

RT @ifmoonwascookie: grad students are a good source of info during #shutdown because many others can’t talk to media #cantstopthesignal

— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) October 1, 2013

Let’s hope that the information from space continues to flow to the masses.

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Meet the Author
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.