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Author Topic:   U.S. federal government shutdown and NASA
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-01-2013 02:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A U.S. federal government shutdown began Tuesday morning (Oct. 1) as Congress failed to reach an agreement on a short-term funding measure by a 12:01 a.m. EDT deadline.

This is not a thread to debate the partisan politics behind the shutdown, but to inform and discuss only about the impacts it has to NASA.

NASA's government shutdown plan was released on Friday (Sept. 27). Now in effect, the plan includes closing down the majority of its operations and placing most if its workforce on furlough.

There are two major operations or classes of operations that would require ongoing support in accordance with the definitions of excepted activities...

First NASA currently is operating the ISS with a crew of 6 astronauts/cosmonauts, which has been in continuous operation since 1998. To protect the life of the crew as well as the assets themselves, we would continue to support planned operations of the ISS during any funding hiatus.

Moreover, NASA will be closely monitoring the impact of an extended shutdown to determine if crew transportation or cargo resupply services are required to mitigate imminent threats to life and property on the ISS or other areas.

Second, if a satellite mission is in the operations phase, we will maintain operations that are essential to ensure the safety of that satellite and the data received from it. However if a satellite mission has not yet been launched, work will generally cease on that project.

With regards to the latter, depending on how long the shutdown is in effect, it could delay NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) from launching this year. As The Planetary Society explains:
The worse-case scenario is that MAVEN misses its launch opportunity to Mars. These only come around every 26 months and remain open for only a short time. MAVEN's has only 20 days between November 18th and December 7th. If MAVEN cannot launch in time, it will have to wait for the next opportunity in early 2016...
According to NASA's plan, examples of activities that will not continue during the shutdown include:
  • Public access to NASA Centers and Facilities — All tours and public education visits to NASA Centers will be canceled.
  • NASA Television/website — Citizens will not have televised access to NASA operations and programming or access to the NASA website.
Contrary to the plan, the privately-operated Space Center Houston has announced it will continue operating tours of Johnson Space Center and maintain normal operation hours. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has yet to post any closings or changes to schedules.

cspg
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From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 10-01-2013 04:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From President Obama's statement:
NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station.
Phew. Imagine the contrary. I don't know if it's funny or pathetic.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-01-2013 05:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One aspect I wasn't able to find the answer to (and probably won't be able to until after the shutdown ends, due to public affairs being closed) is how many astronauts are covered under the ISS exemption?

Obviously, it covers the current space station crew and any astronauts working as capcom in Mission Control. But what about the astronauts in training for future expeditions? Does it only apply to the next crew and their backups, or how far out does the exemption apply? Does Scott Kelly, for example, continue training for his one year mission in 2015?

mmmoo
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From: London, England
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posted 10-01-2013 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mmmoo   Click Here to Email mmmoo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could this affect the upcoming ASF Astronaut Autograph & Memorabilia Show at Kennedy Space Center?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-01-2013 08:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unless the shutdown continues for the next month, which would be unprecedented, then it shouldn't impact the Foundation's show. NASA is not officially involved in the show, and none of its participants are (by definition) still on the government payroll.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-01-2013 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's main websites and its Facebook pages have been taken offline. All of the space agency's Twitter accounts now display the message:
Sorry, but we won't be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown. Be back as soon as possible.

JBoe
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Posts: 104
From: Edgewater, MD, USA
Registered: Oct 2012

posted 10-01-2013 10:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Does it only apply to the next crew and their backups, or how far out does the exemption apply?
Regarding astronauts in training or scheduled to be on the next ISS crew, I think that if they are deemed "essential" in a "excepted" functions will remain on the job, but their paycheck will possibly be delayed. Those considered non-essential or non-exempt will conduct an orderly shutdown and be furloughed.

MarylandSpace
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posted 10-01-2013 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
America's museum, the National Air and Space Museum, is closed.

I hope this budget gets passed soon as the National Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the world. It is also my favorite all-time museum.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-01-2013 10:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has yet to post any closings or changes to schedules.
An update:
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex remains open during its regular operating hours even with the government shut down.

Only KSC Bus Tours and KSC Up-Close Tours onto Kennedy Space Center are suspended due to the government shut down. The following tours will be affected.

  • General Bus Tour
  • KSC Up-Close Mega Tour
  • KSC Up-Close Launch Pad Tour
  • KSC Up-Close Launch Control Center Tour
  • KSC Up-Close Vehicle Assembly Building Tour
  • KSC Up-Close Cape Canaveral: Then and Now Tour

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 10-01-2013 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A buddy of mine went to Pensacola this morning hoping to see the Skylab capsule, among other things at the Navy aviation museum.

It was closed.

mach3valkyrie
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From: Albany, Oregon USA
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posted 10-01-2013 03:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Astronomy Picture of the Day is still functioning.

mikej
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From: Germantown, WI USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 10-01-2013 03:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
NASA's main websites and its Facebook pages have been taken offline.
It appears that all NASA websites have been updated for the government shutdown (along with many other government websites, such as the Library of Congress).

The government had three choices in regards to its websites:

  • Do nothing with the web servers. This saves on payroll, but still incurs costs in the bandwidth and electricity to run them.

  • Pay someone to perform an orderly shutdown of the web servers. While this would have a minor payroll cost (each machine would take a few minutes to shut down, but any competent administrator could shut down multiple servers at the same time), it would save on the bandwidth and electricity costs.

  • Pay someone to update each web server with the "the government has shut down so you can't access this website" pages. Not only does this incur a payroll cost (probably more than simply shutting down the servers), but it also continues to incur bandwidth and electricity charges.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-01-2013 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to OMB documents released in September, each agency was responsible for deciding if it needed to shut down its websites and how to do so. As such, NASA's IT staff decided how to turn off NASA.gov today.

I suspect, it was nothing so time consuming as editing each server, but rather a global redirect with exceptions for the few sites that operate without direct federal funding.

mikej
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From: Germantown, WI USA
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posted 10-01-2013 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It still took more time than taking no action at all, which would have cost the least amount of money.

Blocking access to the website does nothing to curtail spending. It's designed purely to needlessly and adversely affect people.

Ronpur
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From: Brandon, Fl
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posted 10-01-2013 06:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apparently, it hasn't caught up to the Spot the Station texts, since I just got a message for 7:00 am tomorrow.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-01-2013 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mikej:
It still took more time than taking no action at all, which would have cost the least amount of money.
You're assuming taking no action was an option. A site of its size, complexity and audience requires an IT team to maintain it — if not hourly, then at least daily, if for no other reason to protect what lies behind the website.

Don't get me wrong, I am not in favor of NASA.gov having been shut down. I am still not clear on why the U.S. Mint and Congress, to name just two examples, can still operate their websites when the space agency cannot.

But I would never advocate NASA (or any server operator of its size and sensitivity) walk away from its website and call that a solution.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-01-2013 06:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ronpur:
Apparently, it hasn't caught up to the Spot the Station texts...
While the Spot the Station website is still active, the data behind its tracking alerts is not being updated, so may not be reliable for very long.

cycleroadie
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From: Apalachin, NY USA
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posted 10-01-2013 07:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cycleroadie   Click Here to Email cycleroadie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The websites are actually all up. I have many pages within sites bookmarked. They seem to have just re-pointed the main URLs on some of the websites to that page saying the site is down.

For example of one that is working www.jpl.nasa.gov, though I am sure some of the real time data will be out of date.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-01-2013 07:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's website is a special case, among several others, that are not operated on direct federal funds. Despite the nasa.gov domain, Caltech manages the JPL website, and can continue to do so until the money its already received from NASA dries up.

mode1charlie
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posted 10-01-2013 09:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
You're assuming taking no action was an option. A site of its size, complexity and audience requires an IT team to maintain it — if not hourly, then at least daily, if for no other reason to protect what lies behind the website.

Exactly. I oversee several websites, and can report that websites don't just run themselves. They're not "set it and forget it" technology. Things break, something goes buggy, hackers upload malicious code...what have you. Maintaining a functioning website, especially one as big and complicated as NASA's (or most other Federal government entities) takes people, time, and money, but it's hard to argue that this is an "essential" activity.

martin00sr
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posted 10-02-2013 04:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for martin00sr   Click Here to Email martin00sr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was going to visit the National Air and Space Museum with 27 high school students all the way from Denmark on the 10th. I guess we will have to find some alternative...

Ronpur
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From: Brandon, Fl
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posted 10-02-2013 08:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My "Spot the Station" email actually arrived this morning, 2 1/2 hours after the pass over time. Text was on schedule, but email really late.

Glint
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From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
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posted 10-02-2013 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's website... can continue to [operate] until the money its already received from NASA dries up.
Robert's correct. The Night Sky Network sites hosted under nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov are still running today.

Constellation One
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From: Lorain, Ohio, USA
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posted 10-02-2013 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Constellation One   Click Here to Email Constellation One     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some elderly gentleman and his family showed up yesterday in Dayton at the air force museum to see his B-26. Sadly, He was turned away.

I'm more concerned is that in less than a month, the Doolittle Raiders will have their final reunion at the museum.

I hate to see these things happen, but I'm more concerned about the countless families this impacts.

Rocketman!
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posted 10-02-2013 05:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocketman!   Click Here to Email Rocketman!     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The iPhone NASA app has apparently lost its feeds.

Ronpur
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From: Brandon, Fl
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posted 10-02-2013 09:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Slate, 97% of NASA workers are furloughed... the highest of any agency.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-03-2013 05:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) has been declared "excepted" from the current government shutdown so preparations for its November launch could continue, The Planetary Society reports.
...NASA has analyzed the MAVEN mission relative to the Anti-Deficiency Act and determined that it meets the requirements allowing an emergency exception.

MAVEN is required as a communications relay in order to be assured of continued communications with the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers. The rovers are presently supported by Mars Odyssey launched in 2001 and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in 2005. Launching MAVEN in 2013 protects the existing assets that are at Mars today.
Spacecraft processing has already restarted at Kennedy Space Center, working toward being ready to launch on Nov. 18.

mode1charlie
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posted 10-03-2013 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A tiny bit of good news.

mach3valkyrie
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From: Albany, Oregon USA
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posted 10-03-2013 09:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mach3valkyrie:
Astronomy Picture of the Day is still functioning.
Not anymore.

Max Q
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From: Whyalla South Australia
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posted 10-05-2013 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been wondering given the current situation NASA finds itself in how well equipped are they to handle an Apollo 13 type scenario.

I have no doubt that the people involved would put life and limb before their pocket as they are doubtless professional. But would they get paid for their efforts, albeit eventually?

Ronpur
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From: Brandon, Fl
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posted 10-05-2013 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is my understanding that during the last shutdown, all furloughed employees got their back pay when the furlough was over. There is no guarantee that will happen this time.

JBoe
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From: Edgewater, MD, USA
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posted 10-05-2013 09:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My understanding is that Congress has a bill to provide furloughed civilians with back pay and this is up for vote today. Both sides are expected to approve it with overwhelming support.

SpaceAngel
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posted 10-06-2013 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAngel   Click Here to Email SpaceAngel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This isn't the first time NASA shutdown because of the Government shutdown; am I correct?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-06-2013 01:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, NASA has ceased all non-essential activities and furloughed employees during every previous federal shutdown.

For example, mission status reports ceased during the STS-74 mission in 1995 due to the government shutting down.

Cozmosis22
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From: Texas * Earth
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posted 10-06-2013 11:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
JPL's Mars Curiosity Rover website is not being updated at this time.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-13-2013 09:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SNL's "Gravity" inspired cold open...

JBoe
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From: Edgewater, MD, USA
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posted 10-13-2013 01:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LOL... So sad, but so true. Thanks again Robert for the laugh!

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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posted 10-13-2013 01:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JBoe:
...but so true.
Just to be clear though, NASA's International Space Station Mission Control remains staffed, crew training continues (through at least Expedition 44) and if there was an emergency in space, there would be no hindrance from the federal shutdown...

Grounded!
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From: Bennington, Vermont, USA
Registered: Feb 2011

posted 10-13-2013 05:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Grounded!   Click Here to Email Grounded!     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An argument for privatization if I ever saw one. I like the spacewalking shorts.

LM1
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posted 10-13-2013 06:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That was a very funny skit, particularly the cleaning workers speaking with the astronauts in danger in space.


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