NASA has traditionally funded projects associated with large space missions - such as observations with the Hubble Space Telescope - and currently funds nearly three-quarters of such experiments. The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides grants for the individual scientists who conduct smaller ground-based experiments or theorists who analyse data gathered in space. The organisations recently worked together on the Boomerang experiment in the Antarctic to study the cosmic microwave background.

Although a single agency might lead to a more coherent US astronomy programme, the experts believe that the interests of both NASA and the NSF would be better served by closer cooperation rather than complete integration. They argue that giving NASA full control could favour large, one-off missions at the expense of ongoing smaller experiments and education initiatives conducted by the National Science Foundation. The government-appointed panel was headed by Norman Augustine, retired boss of aerospace company Lockheed Martin.