With no sign of a deal between the House and Senate on a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded beyond Monday—the Senate passed a CR Friday that did not contain the controversial provisions of the House version—NASA and other federal agencies are laying out their plans should a government shutdown go into effect on Tuesday. On Friday, NASA published a memo from agency chief financial officer Beth Robinson describing what operations NASA would continue, and what personnel would stay on the job, should a shutdown go into effect October 1.
The short answer on the second question: not many. NASA said that 367 full time equivalent (FTE) personnel, out of a total workforce of 18,250, would remain working across the entire agency should there be a lapse in appropriations. The Johnson Space Center would keep 144 FTEs on the job, the most of any center; the Kennedy Space Center, by comparison, would have only 7 FTEs exempt from the shutdown, and the Stennis Space Center would keep only 4 FTEs.
The memo identifies those activities that are exempt from the shutdown and thus would retain those employees. Those include space launch hardware processing activities; tracking, operation, and support of the International Space Station and other NASA satellites; and “completion of phase-down” of ongoing research activities in those cases where “serious damage to property” would take place if there was an interruption in work. Activities specifically mentioned in the memo that are not exempt from the shutdown include education and public outreach activities, such as NASA TV and the NASA.gov web site: “citizens will not have televised access to NASA operations and programming or access to the NASA website.”
NASA has also published a list of frequently asked questions about operations in the event of a government shutdown.