Administrator Jim Bridenstine from NASA confirmed that the agency had decided to postpone three missions due to the coronavirus outbreak. The NASA official issued the statement after the agency confirmed that an employee working at its facility in California tested positive for COVID-19.

On Monday, employees at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, were ordered to work at home after a staff member got infected by the coronavirus. In response, Bridenstine issued a statement to address how the disease outbreak is currently affecting the agency's space program.

NASA's Response To Coronavirus Outbreak

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (L) makes remarks as US Strategic Command Commander Gen. John Hyten listens during the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee's joint hearing with the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, in Washing
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (L) makes remarks as US Strategic Command Commander Gen. John Hyten listens during the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee's joint hearing with the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/File Photo

On March 10, Bridenstine issued a statement to address the incident at the Ames Research Center. According to the NASA official, restricting access to the facility will help prevent the spread of the virus to other employees. Also, it will enable health officials and medical personnel to conduct their investigations in order to determine and identify the individuals who were in contact with the employee who tested positive for the virus.

"Working with county officials, Ames leadership and medical personnel are working to trace the contacts of the employee and notifying individuals who may have had significant contact with that person," Bridenstine stated.

Effect Of COVID-19 On NASA's Space Program

NASA Ames Research Center
An aerial photograph of NASA's Ames Research Center taken in February 2012. NASA/Eric James

Aside from the working conditions of the employees, Bridenstine noted that the current health issue had affected NASA's space program. Although the Ames Research Center is not a flight facility, it plays a vital role in the missions launched by NASA. It often provides leading information for missions involving lunar rovers, satellites and the search for habitable planets.

According to Bridenstine, NASA has already decided to postpone three missions. These missions are airborne scientific campaigns designed to study Earth. One of the postponed missions is the DeltaX, Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere, which will focus on understanding the impacts of thunderstorms.

Another mission affected by the outbreak is the Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment, which involves studying the various characteristics of oceans. "Three NASA Earth Science airborne science campaigns slated to deploy across the country this spring have rescheduled their field activity until later in the year," Bridenstine said. "The campaigns are DeltaX, Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere and Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment, which would include flights from Ames."