The federal shutdown and Alabama's NASA Marshall Space Center

Oct 1, 2013

The failure of Congress and the White House to reach a spending deal could have an impact on NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center—sort of. The federal budget shutdown is not expected to impact vital services like National defense, the Postal Service and, apparently NASA’s International Space Station. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville controls scientific experiments and other systems on the orbiting outpost. In the hours leading up the midnight deadline on a spending plan, NASA spokesman Jennifer Stanfield said a number of Marshall workers will remain on the job, whether the shutdown occurred or not…

“Thirty four employees at Marshall are designated as ‘excepted’ (immune from unpaid furlough,)” says Stanfield. “They will be working full-time during a possible government shutdown. Those employees, twenty two of those employees support the International Space Station, and will be providing support to maintain in-orbit operations on the space station.”

Other positions at Marshall would remain open to provide safety and security to other staff members who remain on the job. That’s not to say that Marshall workers will be completed immune from unpaid furloughs during the partial government shutdown. Stanfield says there are over two thousand federal employees at Marshall who could find themselves without a paycheck from Washington.

“The majority of those workers would go into furlough status during a shutdown,” says Stanfield. “At Marshall, our employees perform support at all areas of NASA’s space flight missions from human space flights, to science, to research and development, technology development and more.”

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center was the agency’s first space center. The base developed the rocket engines that sent astronauts to the Moon during Project Apollo. Engineers in Huntsville are designing NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, which is meant to propel astronauts out of Earth orbit on space missions for the first time since 1972. The Space Shuttle, by contrast, spent its operational lifetime on missions orbiting the globe.