Coronavirus hits NASA’s plan to return to the Moon in 2024

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WASHINGTON, Mar 19 (Reuters) – The coronavirus dealt a severe blow to NASA’s plan for American astronauts to return to the Moon in 2024, after the head of the space agency ordered the temporary closure of two production facilities on Thursday. of rockets because an employee tested COVID-19 positive.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement Friday that he was closing the Michoud facility in New Orleans and the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the region.

“We realize there will be impacts on NASA missions, but as our teams work to analyze the big picture and reduce risks, we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce,” he said. Bridenstine.

The closings are the latest setback for the development of NASA’s new rocket, called the Space Launch System (SLS), and its manned Orion vehicle, both intended for human missions to the Moon and Mars.

The work at SLS, led by Boeing Co, has suffered delays and nearly $ 2 billion in cost overruns.

(Report of Joey Roulette in Washington; Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)

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