The Senate Commerce Committee, whose oversight includes NASA, is holding a hearing Friday at 1 pm EDT titled “The Impacts of the Government Shutdown on Our Economic Security”. Among the scheduled witnesses for the hearing are Marion Blakey, the president and CEO of the Aerospace States Association; and Alan Leshner, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, best known as the publisher of the journal Science.
One organization has already looked at the economic impact of NASA-related elements of the government shutdown. The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership (BAHEP) issued a white paper this week warning of serious and growing effects of the shutdown on Houston economy. “Indeed, the situation is dire,” the BAHEP document concluded. It found that, in addition to the civil service employee furloughs, 20% of 11,000 contractors are currently laid off, a number BAHEP estimates will grow to 60% by mid-month and 90% by November 1 if the shutdown continues. “For the NASA community, the shutdown price is quite high. The impact to the business community will be irreversible.”
Outside of NASA, the effects of the shutdown continue. The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) is making plans to close down telescopes it runs at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and furlough employees if the shutdown is still in effect at the end of next week. NOAO facilities in Chile will remain open, according to Nature, because of Chilean laws that forbid involuntary unpaid leave. The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) says that other telescopes and facilities it manages, including the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Gemini Observatory, should remain operational at least through the end of the month.
In a bit of good news, though, one radio telescope that previously was expected to furlough employees by the middle of this month now plans to remain open. In a statement posted on its website, Arecibo Observatory director Robert Kerr said that although the situation is “difficult, and confused,” the telescope and its visitor center would remain open during the shutdown; a 50th anniversary symposium planned for late October remains on as well. Last week, Kerr said in a Washington press conference that the observatory would have to furlough its staff by the middle of the month because of a lack of funds due to the shutdown.