LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said Tuesday that its Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston will remain closed to non-mission essential personnel, due to Tropical Storm Harvey.
"The center will reopen Tuesday, Sept. 5," NASA said in a statement. The agency has also canceled an in-flight news conference on Wednesday with astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Due to ongoing effects of the storm, "NASA (is) unable to support media events with AstroPeggy, AstroSabot and AstroAcaba," the ISS tweeted.
However, flight control of the station is continuing in the Houston-based Mission Control Center, which "is expected to remain in operation throughout this period", according to the space center.
"The closing also allows the center to focus on the highest priority mission activities, including the landing of three crew members this weekend," added the JSC, where the space station mission control is located. The center has been closed to all but mission essential personnel since last Friday.
While the vast majority of the workforce was safe, many who had experienced severe flood damage were without power and may need other assistance, said JSC Director Ellen Ochoa, a former astronaut, in a post on Monday.
"Oh boy -- looks like a ton of rain is about to unload. Here's a prayer for family, friends and everyone in Hurricane Harvey's path -- stay safe," astronaut Jack Fischer, currently in the ISS, posted photos of the storm on his Twitter, when orbiting over hurricane Harvey.
Later, the ISS account shared pictures Fischer photographed from the station's six-sided observation dome.
"Wish I was up there and not down here," said Ochoa who retweeted the images.
Tropical Storm Harvey is still causing catastrophic flooding in Houston, as NASA satellites saw the storm's center moving back into the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasts say thunderstorms may produce more heavy rainfalls in the coming days into next week.
The NASA facility covers 1,700 acres (about 6.88 square km) southeast of Houston Harvey in the state of Texas. The center typically bustles with thousands of scientists, engineers, contractors and other staff, including flight controllers for the ISS.
Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Friday night on the Texas coast, later downgraded to a tropical storm. Torrential rain has been pouring down in the area as well as Greater Houston, resulting in heavy flooding and damages.