The coronavirus pandemic pushed everyone back in some way. We have suspended our lives for a year or more waiting for a vaccine to be developed, tested and released. On a personal level, we lost time with friends and family, and lost a year of social experiences, vacations, and many good times. Companies and other organizations lost a lot of money. NASA, continuing its various projects as best it can, is trying to keep staff virus-free, lost a lot of money, and a new report reveals exactly how much.
As SpaceNews The report (PDF) released this week by the Office of the NASA Inspector General reveals the price tag for the impacts expected in the near future, as well as the various setbacks the agency has already endured. Fee? A massive $ 3 billion. Yes, that is billions with a “b”. Oops.
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The report provides a detailed breakdown of the various projects and programs NASA is currently working on and how much of the impact the outbreak has had on them. For example, the Commercial Crew Program saw the “minimal” impact of the pandemic, and SpaceX still managed to launch astronauts to the International Space Station not once, but twice in 2020, which was great. On the other hand, projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, and the Space Launch System all endured “significant” impacts.
A total of $ 1.6 billion of the nearly $ 3 billion loss can be attributed to disruptions in the 30 “major programs and projects” listed in the review. The note continues to list each program / project with the estimated cost impact attributed to the pandemic. For example, costs associated with the International Space Station were $ 1.8 million higher in FY2020 than they would have been otherwise. The agency believes that the total future costs of $ 18.9 million will also be related to the outbreak.
Other programs – especially those under development – suffered far more significant cost disruptions. For example, the Space Launch System covered $ 8 million in related costs in FY2020, but will eventually see a cost overrun of about $ 355 million due to the pandemic. This is quite a large part of the program’s total lifetime cost of approximately $ 11 billion.
From a public point of view, the most costly thing for NASA is time. Many programs experienced outbreak-related delays, and expected launch dates and other timelines were severely interrupted. Of course, there is nothing the space agency could do differently, and its engineers and scientists had to manage missions like the Curiosity rover from their own homes to avoid the health crisis.
Going forward, we will consider that these cost estimates for the pandemic are higher than the actual costs and that these awe-inspiring tasks will be on their way sooner rather than later.
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