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NASA turns 55 -- but there's no one around to celebrate
CBS NEWS: Today is NASA's 55th birthday -- but don't expect to see a celebration, or even a congratulatory quote from a NASA official.
With the government officially shutdown, the majority of NASA employees are on furlough for the foreseeable future. They aren't answering the phones, and the NASA Twitter handle has gone silent. Only 549 of NASA's 18,250 employees are at work today.
"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," NASA CFO Elizabeth Robinson said in a memo.
"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," she wrote. "However if a satellite mission has not yet been launched, work will generally cease on that project."
That memo is also no longer accessible because the website where it once sat now reads, "Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available."
Just before the shutdown started, NASA posted one last update on the official website, leaving us with a list of the Top 10 "Things Done" and "Things to Come."
Over the last half century, the agency has placed 12 astronauts on the moon. Four rovers and four landers have explored Mars, and the Voyager moved into interstellar space.
It's operated 16 satellites observing Earth and seven observing the sun, thanks to more than 1,800 NASA-developed technologies.
The agency helped build the International Space Station, where humans have lived and worked continuously since November 2000.
If the government can get its act together, NASA has big plans for the future. The biggest is sending humans to Mars in the 2030s and capturing a near-Earth asteroid.
It hopes to allow more tourists to explore low-Earth orbit, while sending astronauts further than ever. It'll launch more telescopes and satellites to study the origins of the universe, Mars, Jupiter and Pluto.
But for now, it can't even afford a birthday cake.
For more information, go to the CBS News website by clicking here.