NASA is still holding on strong with its prime missions despite it shutting down some of its operations. This shut down began in March after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The consequences of this act are either delay or postponement of some of the missions.
Nonetheless, plans for NASA’s Mars mission slated for July 30 via the Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral have been accomplished. This launch was supposed to be on July 17, but some technical challenges and lousy weather are engineering the postponement. However, the launch period is far from over, with the last day being August 15.
Launch tests for this mission have been going on despite the coronavirus pandemic. Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s director Michael Watkins states the team in this mission has been working round the clock in shifts to ensure the success of the launch. He is happy to report that the team has finalized the technicalities and is ready for launch.
Watkins articulates that 100 of the 1000 people working on this launch have finalized the tests with other hundreds evaluating the space vehicle’s operation from the JPL. This number is astonishing, considering the movement challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
NASA’s move to prioritize the Mars mission despite the closure of its operations is laudable. The agency also intensified its efforts on the SpaceX Demo-2 commercial crew test, and its success is visible in it landing Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine explained in a virtual conference that they are strategizing on returning the spacecraft carrying Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Bob, Doug, and Cassidy were able to conduct spacewalks while at the International Space Station. Bridenstine reports that they will be watching out for the splashdown of their capsule off the Florida coast.
These two projects are the face of NASA, while the other projects are delayed. NASA reveals that the postponement in the inauguration of the James Webb Space Telescope is due to technical challenges and the pandemic delay.
Tryout of the Space Launch System core stage at the Stennis Space Center was stopped for two months on the closure of the center due to the pandemic. The resumption of these operations will be in October. Bridenstine has warned that the epidemic might lead to further delays.
Bridenstine says that the launch of SLS and the Artemis 1 slated for November 2021 could be halted if the coronavirus pandemic does not end.
Finally, Steve Jurczyk, the NASA associate administrator, says that the rising cases of positive COVID-19 personnel will likely lead to a total shutdown of their centers to contain this challenge. This move will halt many of the projects slated for next year.