Gravity Hits NASA: Shutdown as "Nonessential" NASA Turns 55

Last week was NASA's 55th birthday. However, the folks over at NASA didn't have a giant cake or some crazy party to celebrate 55 years of the space program. Instead, 97 percent of NASA employees were deemed "nonessential," sent home without pay and told to wait and not work until the government finally agrees on a budget and gets up and running again.

The furlough doesn't seem to include two astronauts who can't just pack up and go home, Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins, since they're currently aboard the International Space Station. They have been sending down some entertaining tweets though with pictures of clouds and sky and floating hair, as NPR reported.

Mission Control is still operating on at least a super-basic level to keep watch over the astronauts in orbit, according to the Huffington Post, but otherwise NASA employees will be left to their own devices for the duration.

And it seems NASA employees are the type that will "volunteer" their time even if they've been told to sit at home and not to work since they won't be getting a dime in the way of pay for it, according to Les Johnson, deputy manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

"I dare say there are not very many people out there who would take forced, unpaid days off and continue to work for the company that sent them home," Johnson wrote in his blog. "Except at NASA. And, yes, if it weren't so explicitly stated, I would be one who would continue to work on my NASA projects at home, on my own time, and without compensation. I am sure I wouldn't be alone."

For one NASA employee in Houston, she's taken all of her free, unpaid time and poured it into her side business, online grocery delivery. Tara Ruttley, an International Space Station scientist, has started an online grocery business to help get her through the furlough, according to KHOU. Ruttley's business allows customers to fill in their grocery lists online and then the groceries are delivered, most likely by a very smart scientist.

And all of this is going on while the new film Gravity is bringing in the money, and space exploration is looking all sexy-fun-cool because Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are wearing the space suits and just had a record-breaking weekend at the box office. It's a pity that NASA has gone silent just now.

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