When it came time for NASA's LADEE spacecraft to put itself in orbit around the moon, the politics that put the U.S. government into a partial shutdown took a back seat to the physics of spaceflight.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, nicknamed LADEE, blasted off aboard a Minotaur 5 rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, on Sept. 6, the first leg of a roundabout, month-long journey to the moon.
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After circling Earth three times, the spacecraft on Sunday was finally in position for a make-or-break engine firing to slow its speed so that it could be captured by the moon's gravity.
The maneuver could not be rescheduled for when furloughed government workers were back on the job.
"Thanks to NASA's foresight and good project management within the LADEE team, essential personnel were immediately exempted from the shutdown and operations have continued normally," deputy project scientist Greg Delory, with NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., wrote in an email to Discovery News.