The coronavirus pandemic pushed everyone back in one way or another. We have put life on hold for a year or more just waiting for a vaccine to be developed, tested and implemented. On a personal level, we have wasted time with friends and family and lost social experiences, vacations and many good times for a year. Businesses and other organizations have lost money and many of them. NASA, which continued its various projects to the best of its ability, why try to make sure staff were virus-free, also lost a lot of money and a new report reveals exactly how much.
How SpaceNews reports, the report released this week (PDF) by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General reveals the price of the various setbacks the agency has already suffered, as well as their projected impacts in the immediate future. The cost? A huge amount of $ 3 billion. Yes, that’s a billion with a “b”. Yikes.
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The report provides a detailed breakdown of the various projects and programs that NASA is currently working on and the impact the pandemic has had on them. For example, the Commercial Crew Program has seen a “minimal” impact from the pandemic and SpaceX was still able to launch astronauts on the International Space Station not one, but two in 2020, which was fantastic. On the other hand, projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, and the Space Launch System suffered “significant” impacts.
A total of $ 1.6 billion of the approximately $ 3 billion in losses can be attributed to setbacks from the 30 “major programs and projects” listed in the review. The note continues to list each program / project along with an estimated cost impact attributed to the pandemic. For example, the costs associated with the International Space Station were $ 1.8 million more over fiscal year 2020 than they would have been otherwise. The agency believes a total of $ 18.9 million in future costs will also be related to the pandemic.
Other programs, especially those still in development, have suffered much more major setbacks. The space launch system, for example, absorbed $ 8 million in associated costs during fiscal year 2020, but will ultimately see an excess cost of approximately $ 355 million due to the pandemic. That’s a pretty considerable chunk of the total cost of the program, which lasts about $ 11 billion.
From a public perspective, the most costly thing for NASA is time. So many programs have experienced pandemic-related delays that scheduled release dates and other deadlines have been severely altered. There’s nothing the space agency has been able to do in a different way, of course, and it was already forced to have its engineers and scientists run missions like the Curiosity rover from home to protect them from the health crisis.
In the future, we will continue with our fingers crossed that these pandemic-related cost estimates are higher than actual costs and that these inspiring missions will return to the track sooner rather than later.
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