That's Endeavour on the launch pad, waiting for the start of mission STS-134. But, like the United States Government and most of its vital science operations, it may shut down tonight. If that happens, that's very bad news.
This is how the political war in Washington will affect the top 10 scientific operations essential for the safety and progress of the country:
• Center for Disease Control: Reduced to a bare minimum. Essential operations—like the CDC's Emergency Operations Center or immunizations for children and outbreak investigations—will continue to work. There will be delays in other programs and shutdown of everything else that is considered non-essential, like zombies research.
• United States Department of Agriculture: All facilities would shut down except for critical food safety control—meat, poultry and egg inspection services—Forest Service law enforcement, fire fighting, and child malnutrition programs. Don't get your hopes too high, Taco Bell.
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: It would affect all the facilities except those that are essential for the protection of lives and property in the United States . The shut down may include the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
• NASA: All programs except support for the International Space Station crew and tasks that maintain the safety and operation on core NASA assets, like the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The shuttle launch, however, may get delayed again because of the shutdown. The rest of NASA facilities—from the JPL to Goddard and non-essential operations on Houston and KSC—would shut down.
• Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories: The two famous nuclear research facilities in New Mexico would keep essential facilities working through the shutdown, since they have "carry-over funds" from long term projects, according to a directive from the Department of Energy.
• Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Like Sandia and Los Alamos, depends on the Department of Energy. The LLNL is in charge of controlling the safety of the United States nuclear arsenal, among other things. Operations essential to this task would be kept open.
• National Ignition Facility: It depends on the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but being non-essential
• Fermilab proton-antiproton collider: According to an insider, they only have money to work through two weeks.
• Federal Transportation Safety: The Department of Transportation will keep running the Will maintain both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration.
• US Military: Most of the research programs that don't have carry-over funds will be shutdown completely. Active military operations will continue to work through the shutdown, as well as child care and dining.
So yes, the Federal government shutdown will directly and indirectly affect the lives of many, including yours. But, fortunately, it will not put the country on the verge of self-destruction.
In fact, the United States have survived previous government shutdowns, the last one in 1996, with President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress fighting over funding for Medicare, environment, public health and education.
Of course, that doesn't mean that this situation is ok. It's not. It's a big clusterfuck. The political war in Washington will have a definitive effect, costing everyone lots of money in the long run, and delaying science operations that are vital for the present and future of the country.