Another thing you can blame Congress for: The "Space Fence" — an American radar system that tracks satellites and space junk to keep them from colliding — is scheduled to close later this year, possibly as soon as October, according to an Air Force Space Command memo obtained by Space News.
"This is your notice to begin preparing the sites for closure," the memo said. "A specific list of action items will be provided as soon as it is finalized. A specific date to turn off the mission system has not been established yet, but will be provided to you immediately upon determination."
The shutdown is being blamed on sequestration, the across-the-board cuts that have reduced available funds for everything from the Pentagon to Meals on Wheels. Lawmakers could have prevented those cuts from going into effect by delineating specific, comparable cuts elsewhere in the budget, but Republicans and Democrats never came close to a compromise.
The "fence" is only one of several systems that perform this space junk-monitoring function, but it's an important safeguard against the estimated 21,000 pieces of space debris circling the planet — debris that occasionally winds up on collision courses with satellites and the International Space Station.
Congress has discussed building a new, updated version of the fence... though that effort (and pretty much everything else) is on hold while lawmakers toy with shutting down the government altogether.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 10 things you need to know today: October 24, 2014
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
- Why is the Pentagon stuffing caves in Norway full of tanks?
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Let us now praise Billy Joel
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- Did the media get Ferguson wrong?
- An open letter to #brands about Gamergate
Subscribe to the Week