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
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- Don't argue about politics this Thanksgiving. Just don't.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- How to survive a spaceship disaster
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
Subscribe to the Week