Contracting arrangements also mean that several key NASA centres continue to run under the auspices of university operators. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for example, is run by the California Institute of Technology, and the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is part of the Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, NASA is still watching the skies for dangerous near-Earth asteroids — for now. Its near-Earth-object search programmes, partially funded by other institutions such as the US Air Force, have enough money to keep operating in the short term, says Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But “if it drags,” he says, “some of us will run out of our annual money.”