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Partial Shutdown of US Delays Space Missions, But NASA Not Grounded

Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said

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People rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

The partial shutdown of the US federal government has had a serious impact on the country’s space agency NASA and development work on most future space missions has been slowed or suspended.

However, NASA has not been totally grounded by the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, after last-minute negotiations in Congress failed to end a budget standoff.

Over 95 per cent of the space agency’s employees have been furloughed. As a result, various research projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope has been put on hold, the Space.com reported on Wednesday.

Hubble suffered a mechanical problem that only furloughed NASA employees could repair.

Many workers also gathered outside the Johnson Space Center in Houston to protest the shutdown and its deleterious effects on their lives and the nation’s space programmes.

The Telescope facilities that have so far remained open during the shutdown will soon run out of money and cease operations.

This includes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a federally funded organization that operates the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Large Array (VLA), the report noted.

The partial shutdown become the longest on record after January 12, overtaking the previous record of the 21-day impasse in 1995-96 under then President Bill Clinton.

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US shutdown delays space missions but NASA not grounded: Report,

President Donald Trump and the Congress have been at loggerheads over his demand to include in the budget $5.7 billion funding for building a border wall along the Mexico border. Democratic leaders have rejected his call.

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), also called the “flying telescope” has also ceased operations since the shutdown.

The telescope, which is mounted to the fuselage of a Boeing 747 aircraft, has not flown since the shutdown began, the report said.

However, despite the shutdown some “excepted” employees remained at work, assisting astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other space missions, the report said.

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Last week, astronauts aboard the ISS conducted a range of scientific experiments and public-outreach work. They engaged in an orbital Q&A with school kids and answered a variety of questions, from the nature of the research performed aboard the ISS to the type of training astronauts receive to whether your ears pop in space.

On January 13, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule departed the orbiting lab for Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The robotic Dragon brought down important scientific research and hardware for examination here on terra firma.

Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said.  (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook Urges US Police to Stop Using Fake Accounts

When law enforcement has a written policy of engaging in fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts in violation of Facebook's policies, the social network should add a notification to the agency's page to inform users of the law enforcement policy

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This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Facebook should take new steps, including issuance of alerts to users, to address the proliferation of fake accounts operated by law enforcement agencies in the US, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital civil liberties not-for-profit organisation.

A report in the Guardian earlier revealed that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) violated Facebook’s guidelines by creating fake profiles on its platform tied to the University of Farmington — a sham institution that left many students, most of them Indians, in detention.

Facebook’s policy prohibits all users, including government agencies, from making fake accounts. But despite this, law enforcement agencies created fake accounts to spy on users, EFF said.

Police departments in Ohio, New York, Georgia and Nebraska said they had policies allowing investigators to use aliases and undercover profiles on social media, the Guardian reported on Monday.

“Facebook’s practice of taking down these accounts when they learn about them from the press (or from EFF) is insufficient to deter what we believe is a much larger iceberg beneath the surface,” EFF’s Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass wrote in a blogpost.

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Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018. VOA

“We often only discover the existence of law enforcement fake profiles months, if not years, after an investigation has concluded,” Maass said.

In addition to suspending fake accounts, Facebook should publish data on the number of fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts identified, what agencies they belonged to, and what action was taken, EFF said.

According to EFF, when a fake/impersonator account is identified, Facebook should alert the users and groups that interacted with the account whether directly or indirectly.

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Facebook should further amend its “Amended Terms for Federal, State and Local Governments in the United States” to make it explicitly clear that, by agreeing to the terms, the agency was agreeing not to operate fake/impersonator profiles on the platform, Maass said.

When law enforcement has a written policy of engaging in fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts in violation of Facebook’s policies, the social network should add a notification to the agency’s page to inform users of the law enforcement policy, Maass said. (IANS)