How Is The Shutdown Really Affecting NASA Workers?
October 14, 2013

US Space Program Continues To Feel Effects Of Government Shutdown

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

As the US government shutdown trudges on, comedians are using the big screen tales of space-related heroism to skewer the situation in Washington, while some real-life NASA astronauts are going to extremes in order to make ends meet.

Gravity, the movie, which shows astronauts, portrayed by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, struggling to survive in outer space following a harrowing accident, earned $44.3 million and was the top grossing film for the second straight week, according to the Associated Press (AP). However, the current situation in Washington led the cast members of Saturday Night Live to have a little fun at the potential Oscar-nominee’s expense.

According to Andrew Kirell of Mediaite, SNL re-imagined what the film would be like if there were no mission control workers currently on duty when the fateful events occurred. In the SNL skit, astronauts Kate McKinnon and Taran Killam attempt to contact NASA employees on Earth, only to find that the only people currently in the space agency’s control room are a pair of janitors. The actual mission control personnel? Victims of the government shutdown.

However, for actual NASA workers, the furloughs resulting from the ongoing situation are no laughing matter, and some employees have to take drastic steps in order to provide for their families. On Sunday, Zachary Kiesch of NBC Washington shared one such tale: that of NASA research assistant and amateur musician John Bolten, who finds himself forced to market his prized acoustic guitar on Craigslist.

Bolten told Kiesch that he has owned the guitar, affectionately known as “Blossom,” since 2005. He acquired the instrument after completing his graduate studies in hydrology – work which helped him land his government job. However, in the wake of the government shutdown and the recent arrival of a new baby, he has opted to sell the guitar in order to help support his family of four, choosing to act before the bills begin piling up.

Another NASA-related victim of the shutdown is the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Music and Drama Club, according to Washington Post writer DeNeen L. Brown. While minor in comparison with the financial woes faced by some government employees, the members of the club have been locked out of their regular venue at the NASA center’s Greenbelt campus.

For the time being, members of the club – many of them who are “idled NASA employees and contractors,” said Brown – have been rehearsing at a nearby church. With their career status and their future with the space agency uncertain, the group has become somewhat of a support group for its members, the Post reporter added.

“The drama club is one of hundreds of social networks at federal agencies across Washington,” Brown said. “There are softball teams, knitting groups, kickball teams, book clubs, ballroom dance groups, even a chamber orchestra made up of doctors and scientists at the National Institutes of Health.”

“For the furloughed, those social ties are providing much needed camaraderie and support at a time of stress and uncertainty,” she noted, with Linda Pattison, a furloughed IT ground security manager who is involved in the Drama Club, adding that these types of programs give people like her “something else to think about.”