NASA closes 2 facilities after employee tests positive for coronavirus
Washington/Sputnik/UNI: NASA has decided to close the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana after one of the employee was found to be infected with COVID-19, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Friday.
The Stennis Space Center is NASA’s largest rocket engine testing facility, and the Michoud Assembly Facility’s role is to support NASA’s discovery and exploration missions. The closure of these facilities means the suspension of work on the Space Launch System and Orion hardware, crucial for the agency’s Artemis moon program.
"The change at Stennis was made due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community around the center, the number of self-isolation cases within our workforce there, and one confirmed case among our Stennis team. While there are no confirmed cases at Michoud, the facility is moving to Stage 4 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the local area, in accordance with local and federal guidelines," Bridenstine said, as quoted in NASA’s press release.
Stage 4 means the closure of the facility, suspension of travel for employees and mandatory telework.
"We realize there will be impacts to NASA missions, but as our teams work to analyze the full picture and reduce risks we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce," the administrator added.
NASA’s Artemis program aims to send US astronauts to the moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable exploration by 2028. The next step for the agency is to send astronauts to Mars.
The United States has so far confirmed 14,250 COVID-19 cases in the country and more than 200 deaths from coronavirus-related complications. The state of Louisiana has confirmed 392 coronavirus cases, while Mississippi has confirmed 50 cases, according to John Hopkins University.