Coronavirus pauses work on JWST

NASA has stopped integration and testing work on some space missions as it prioritizes what missions require on-site personnel during the coronavirus pandemic. JWST, NASA’s next astrophysics flagship mission, is one of the projects that NASA is putting on hold. Work on integration and testing of the space telescope, which had been ongoing at a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California, will be suspended.

During an online town hall meeting for NASA’s science program earlier March 20, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, suggested the mission would be delayed. “It will be impacted,” he said. NASA personnel involved in that work had been reduced, he said, in part to allow those on travel to return home to their families.
Zurbuchen said he would not hesitate to stop work on Mars 2020 if it was unsafe to do so, even if it meant missing its launch window and having to wait until 2022 to try again. “Every time we have a meeting with the JPL center director and contractors, I reassure to them if there’s a moment in time when they feel it’s no longer safe,” he said, “we will stop.”