The foundation, in spite of its name, is a government agency that, among other things, oversees U.S. antarctic research. That includes coordinating ships and aircraft that get researchers and their equipment to the continent.
Tuesday's announcement comes during the antarctic spring as the high research season begins, ScienceInsider reported.
"Without additional funding, NSF has directed its antarctic support contractor to begin planning and implementing caretaker status for research stations, ships and other assets," the agency said.
The foundation said if the shutdown continues after Oct. 31, the effects would be even more far-reaching. That's when it would have to suspend work on several antarctic construction projects, including a solar telescope.
ScienceInsider is a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.