Government Shutdown In Space: NASA Astronauts Safe on Space Station

International Space Station as seen from NASA space shuttle.
This image from a NASA space shuttle mission shows the International Space Station in orbit. The space station is the size of a football field and home to six astronauts. Image taken: Feb. 10, 2010. (Image credit: NASA)

The U.S. government shutdown beginning today (Oct. 1) will shut down much of NASA, but the space agency is taking special measures to safeguard American astronauts currently living on the International Space Station.

Veteran NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and first-time space traveler Mike Hopkins can rest assured that when they call home to Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, someone will pick up the call. Today also happens to be NASA's 55th birthday — the space agency began operations on Oct. 1, 1958 — but it is unlikely any parties are planned.

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 37 flight engineer, poses for a photo while floating freely in the Unity node of the International Space Station on Sept. 16, 2013. (Image credit: NASA)

"NASA will continue operations in the Mission Control Center to protect the lives of the six crew members in orbit and the safety and security of the space station," NASA spokesman Josh Byerly told in an email late Monday (Sept. 30). [Life In Space: An Astronaut's Video Guide]

Most of NASA's 18,000 employees are furloughed today as a result of the government shutdown that went into effect after Congress failed to pass a budget late Monday (Sept. 30). Less than 600 space agency workers will be at work today, according to NASA's government shutdown plan.

In a statement Monday, President Barack Obama said NASA "will shut down almost entirely," but that Mission Control would remain open.

Byerly did not say how many Mission Control flight controllers would remain on duty, but the Johnson Space Center has experience working with a skeleton crew to maintain the space station. In the past, NASA has had to make do with a significantly smaller Mission Control team during emergencies, such as when hurricanes have threatened the nearby Texas coast.

With NASA shut down, its public affairs operations, television and webcast channels and website,, are closed for business.

"Due to the lapse in government funding, NASA Television will be unavailable to the Public, News Organizations, Satellite Service Providers and Cable Television Distributors," read a statement broadcasting continuously on NASA TV. "In addition, the NASA television feeds from also will be unavailable until further notice. We sincerely regret this inconvenience."

In addition to the NASA TV and website freeze, NASA's widespread social media accounts — which the space agency uses to announce mission news and space discoveries — is also shut down.

In space, Nyberg and Hopkins had been posting updates and photos on Twitter regularly to keep the public apprised of their work in space. Nyberg writes under the penname @AstroKarenN, and also uses Pintrest to post photos of her mission. Hopkins posts updates under the name @AstroIllini.

However, Nyberg and Hopkins have not posted any messages or photos to Twitter since Monday.

Nyberg launched to the space station in May and is due to return to Earth in November. Hopkins just launched to the space station on Sept. 25 and is at the start of a six-month mission in space.

The two NASA astronauts are joined by Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano from the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin, Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy. Together, they make up the International Space Station's Expedition 37 crew.

You can read more about NASA's government-shutdown plan here:

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.