"James Webb Space Telescope" by NASA / Public Domain

NASA pauses work on James Webb Space Telescope due to coronavirus, weighs risk to other science missions

Mar 23, 2020

By Meghan Bartels

As many NASA centers switch to mandatory telework to confront the spread of COVID-19, NASA leadership acknowledged that prized science missions may suffer delays and that the agency was prepared to make that trade in order to keep its employees safe.

Among the missions affected is the James Webb Space Telescope, where work is now on hold, NASA officials said Friday (March 20).

Questions about NASA’s response to the coronavirus pandemic reigned during a Science Mission Directorate digital town hall held on Friday. The event had been arranged to allow Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen and several division leaders to summarize and address questions about President Donald Trump’s budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1. As it turned out, that discussion took second place on the agenda.

“What we’re going to do in this call is use what I call the elephant principle: If there’s an elephant in the room, we’ll talk about it,” Zurbuchen said during his opening remarks. “We’re going to talk about COVID activities and how it affects us here in science. And then, as we do all day, we will go back to business.”

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