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Critical operations at NASA, NOAA and EPA continue during closure :: WRAL.com



NASA employees are following a family plan in the last government shutdown . The plan submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on November 30 has not changed substantially since the one that was followed during the last closure in 2013, which lasted 13 days. The total impact of the closure will not be evident until Monday.

According to an email sent by the agency last week to NASA employees by interim administrator Robert Lightfoot, employees must arrive at work as they normally would on Monday, where more than 95 percent will receive guidance on how to better close your activities. Those that provide a "minimum level of safety, security and reliability [for] the preservation of government assets" will be exempt.

Ground Controllers of the International Space Station and other personnel supporting the vehicle at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Texas and the scientific support operations of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Alabama are expected to continue working. It is expected that about 5.7 percent and 2.5 percent of employees at JSC and MSFC, respectively, will remain on their consoles to "protect the lives of the crew as well as the assets themselves."

Other "monitoring, operation and support of operational satellites necessary for security and protection of life and property" are also exempt. Likewise, 30 of the nearly 2,000 employees of the National Science Foundation will stay to support researchers in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Of the 11,400 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Meteorological Service, about 46 percent are considered necessary to protect life and property. NOAA services, such as weather forecasting, are necessary not only to discover what jacket to wear this weekend but are critical for aviation, agriculture and fishing.

The effects of closure go beyond government agencies as well. The new Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX could be delayed even more. "Logistical and security concerns" have postponed the progress on the giant rocket, most recently to clear the scope of last night's launch of a United Voting Atlas Atlas V carrying a warning satellite of military missiles. The license could make the Kennedy Space Center personnel who support Launch Pad 39-A unavailable.

The revised plan calls for public access to NASA centers and facilities. All tours and public education events will be canceled. Although still available from Saturday, the television channel and the NASA website will be closed according to the plan.

NASA's educational support is also affected. NASA educators will suspend support activities for teachers and cancel school visits nationwide. If the closure continues, next week's Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science could also be affected. The closure plan prevents NASA's Langley Education Office from participating as scheduled. Volunteers in the Solar System Ambassador program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory can not participate either.

Not all government agencies adhere to their plans

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According to the closure contingency plan submitted by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 61 percent of employees would be suspended, including those involved in the flu monitoring program, but authorities said on Friday night that the program would continue.

National Parks and Monuments such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, plan to close as they did in 2013. However, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke began working on a plan days before the closure to keep national parks and monuments open during closure without park rangers or other personnel, which generates confusion for the agency, according to a Washington Post report.

The 137 facilities of the Environmental Protection Agency, including the largest research center in Research Triangle Park, are expected to "follow their normal work schedule for the week of January 22, 2018" ] according to administrator Scott Pruitt. "At this time, EPA has sufficient resources to remain open for a limited time in case of a government shutdown." No details have been provided on what happens when that funding is exhausted, but the plans submitted by the EPA require more than 95% of workers will be suspended.


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