What’s the Mars Rover up to?
Don’t ask NASA.
Of all the agencies affected by the government shut down, NASA personnel have been hit the hardest. According to Slate, 97 percent of the space agency’s employees were furloughed when the federal government shut down over Republican opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act.
According to The Washington Post, of the 18,250 employees at NASA, just 549 are exempted from furlough and are expected to work through the shutdown.
Those employees still on the clock include the Mission Control staff responsible for the well-being of astronauts on the International Space Station, according to USA.gov.
Curiosity Rover, which landed on the Red Planet last summer, is operated by the private Jet Propulsion Laboratory, run by the California Institute of Technology. JPL is under contact to NASA.
According to Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society (which is headed by none other than Bill Nye, "The Science Guy,") JPL has some “funds in the bank” and can continue operating for now. But the status of operations will need to be evaluated on a week-by-week basis.
So what has Curiosity been up to?
Swimming on Mars. Kind of.It turns out the rover has discovered that Martian soil might contain as much as 2 percent water by weight, CNN reported. Its now on its way to climb Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile high peak that gives a glimpse into the geological history of the planet.
Perhaps the lights will still be on at JPL when the rover begins its ascent.