NASA missions face delays and rising costs over COVID-19 impact

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The coronavirus pandemic will cost NASA billions, and according to a recent internal audit, the virus’ impact hasn’t subsided yet.

Several NASA missions have been delayed by months, as difficult decisions were made about which missions to prioritize.

Missions like the Commercial Crew Program have been at the top of the list.

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The International Space Station needs astronauts aboard to operate properly, but other NASA programs have seen more significant impacts.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission was a priority for the agency. Now, the Perseverance rover is on the red planet searching for signs of ancient microbial life.

The rover’s tiny Ingenuity helicopter could take the first controlled flight on another planet as soon as next weekend.

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Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine explained last year that if Perseverance hadn’t launched during its brief 2020 window, it would have delayed the mission by two years.

The agency worked around remote work requirements, constraints on on-site work, and chartered flights to support final spacecraft processing.

But COVID-19′s impact on other major programs was even more significant.

NASA’s office of inspector general estimates the cost of disruptions and delays at around $3 billion.

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“COVID didn’t help Orion and SLS as far as staying on schedule at all,” said Ken Kremer with Space Upclose. “We’re hopefully going to launch by the end of the year, but it’s really tight.”

However, NASA is already projecting costly months-long launch delays for other missions like the Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.

See the full report in the video above.