As the U.S. government shutdown grinds through its fourth day, science projects are falling like flies as they get starved of funds. And now, one of the most symbolic of scientific institutions has become the latest casualty of the political ineptitude on Capitol Hill.
Today, as of 7pm Eastern Time, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (site offline) will shut down all of its North American facilities. This includes the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) in New Mexico, plus the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Apart from a skeleton crew that will remain behind as security for the radio antennae, the vast majority of the NRAO’s 475 employees will be laid off in an unpaid furlough.
Turning off the radio observatories hurts science. These are not easy systems to start back up again. And, if the shutdown asts much longer, they may not have any reserves to pay the electricity needed to even keep these systems functional during the shutdown.
We are destroying a large number of basic research projects, a huge number of scientists are being lost, disease outbreaks are going unnoticed and children are not getting cancer treatments.
But ideology is more important to some.