Coronavirus: Nasa’s Moon plans take a hit

The fall-out from the coronavirus crisis is even being felt in space.

Rising infection rates near key technical centres in Louisiana and Mississippi mean the US space agency is suspending production and testing of its Moon rocket and capsule systems.

The Trump administration had set 2024 for the first crewed mission to the lunar surface in 50 years – an already challenging target.

That date looks even more optimistic now.

Nasa said it had no choice but to suspend work on the construction of the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and the capsule, known as Orion.

The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has had one confirmed infection among its staff, and although the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana hasn’t yet had a COVID-19 case – growing infection rates in the communities around both complexes means a shut-down is the only sensible option.

Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine said staff were now moving to put hardware in a safe condition.

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

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