MAVEN Given Emergency Exception to Proceed Despite Shutdown

MAVEN Given Emergency Exception to Proceed Despite Shutdown

With its launch coming up in just a few weeks, NASA’s MAVEN program is at the top of the list of NASA concerns in the government shutdown.   MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky spread the news today that the mission received an “emergency exception” this morning and launch preparations are resuming.

In a post on MAVEN’s website, Jakosky said that he learned this morning that “NASA has analyzed the MAVEN mission relative to the Anti-Deficiency Act and determined that it meets the requirements allowing an emergency exception.”  The Anti-Deficiency Act is the law that prohibits government agencies from spending money they don’t have — in this case, FY2014 funding. 

Jakosky went on to explain that the exception was allowed because MAVEN is needed as a communications relay for the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers already on Mars.  “Although the exception … is not being done for science reasons, the science of MAVEN clearly will benefit from this action.”

MAVEN is scheduled for launch on November 18 and Jakosky said it can be launched as late as December 15, but with no end in sight to the government shutdown, the possibility that it would miss that launch window and have to wait 26 months until Earth and Mars are properly aligned once more is quite real.  The exception should allow the launch to take place this year.  He said that launch processing has already resumed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Jakosky is a professor of geological sciences, faculty research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), and Director of the Center for Astrobiology at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  MAVEN, an orbiter, is the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission.  Although NASA’s website is down because of the government shutdown, LASP’s MAVEN website is up and operating.

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