NASA Mission Control braces for Hurricane Laura as astronauts watch from space

Mission controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston are bracing for the impact of Hurricane Laura.

Now a Category 4 storm, Laura made landfall early this morning (Aug. 27) at the Texas-Louisiana border, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of the center, where the agency conducts its International Space Station operations. 

To prepare for the potentially catastrophic storm, NASA has temporarily closed Johnson Space Center, sending a small team of mission-critical personnel who are  "germane to monitoring and sending commands for the most important station systems" to a backup control hub in central Texas, according to NASA's ISS blog

Related: How Earth-orbiting satellites are tracking the 2020 hurricane season

And just in case the center becomes inaccessible after the storm, the full team of flight controllers has been setting up a backup control room at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

"As in the past, a backup flight control team is located in Central Texas handling all USOS [United States Operational Segment] operations with a longer-term team located at the Marshall Space Flight Center should that become necessary," NASA spokesman Rob Navias told in an email. "ISS operations are running smoothly with no impacts or any threat to the crew."

There are currently three crewmembers on board the International Space Station:  NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. On Wednesday (Aug. 26) Cassidy tweeted photos of Hurricane Laura taken from the orbiting lab. "Stay safe everyone," he wrote in the tweet.

NASA's Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of Hurricane Laura on Aug. 26, 2020, as the storm neared the Gulf Coast.  (Image credit: NASA EOSDIS/LANCE/GIBS/Worldview/JPSS/Joshua Stevens)

Johnson Space Center is no stranger to hurricane threats. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in August 2017, the center was closed for nearly two weeks due to severe flooding. 

Related: Satellite images show Hurricane Harvey's destruction

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that Laura could cause "catastrophic" storm surges and flash flooding along the northwest Gulf Coast on Wednesday night (Aug. 26). However, by Thursday morning the storm surge warning had been lifted in the Houston area, the NHC said in its latest advisory.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.