Senate saves the James Webb Space Telescope

Sep 15, 2011 By Jason Major

The 2012 fiscal year appropriation bill, marked up today by the Senate, allows for continued funding of the James Webb Space Telescope and support up to a launch in 2018! Yes, it looks like this bird is going to fly.

The will be the premier of the next decade, serving thousands of worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the , to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own . JWST will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror.

Thanks to everyone who contacted their representatives and expressed their support of the JWST, to all the websites out there that made it particularly simple to do so, and of course to all the state representatives who stood behind the program and didn’t allow it to get mothballed. The space science community thanks you and the current and future generations of astronomers, physicists, cosmologists and explorers thank you.

“In a spending bill that has less to spend, we naturally focus on the cuts and the things we can’t do. But I’d like to focus on what we can do. The bill invests more than $12 billion in scientific research and high impact research and technology development, to create new products and new jobs for the future," said CJS Subcommittee Chairwoman, Barbara Mikulski

In addition to continued funding for the telescope the 2012 bill also allots the National Aeronautics and Space Administration $17.9 billion (a reduction of $509 million or 2.8 percent from the 2011 enacted level) and preserves NASA’s portfolio balanced among science, aeronautics, technology and human space flight investments, including the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, the heavy lift Space System, and commercial crew development.

In this tighter economy, all of the agencies funded under the bill are also called on to be better stewards of taxpayers’ dollars, and waste and overspending will be much more closely monitored.

Read the bill summary here.

Explore further: N. America treated to partial solar eclipse Thurs.

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User comments : 27

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Vendicar_Decarian
2.5 / 5 (8) Sep 15, 2011
Damn. I thought the anti Science Repugs would win this one.
flashgordon
5 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
I'm a little surprised we've saved it. I didn't bother writing anybody about it; i figured . . . well, I figured it didn't much matter. I mean what are they going to do with the hardware already made?

The James Webb is probably still on a short leash. I tried following the links; but, it didn't get me anywhere that looked like it was going to say anything.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2011
I'm a little surprised we've saved it
They saved only one year and other departments of NASA will probably pay it hardly. The future of JWST indeed depends of financial situation of USA, which could improve only urgent application of cold fusion or unexpected finding of ocean of cheap oil in Texas.
Eric_B
4.8 / 5 (6) Sep 15, 2011
"financial situation of USA, which could improve only urgent application of cold fusion or unexpected finding of ocean of cheap oil in Texas."

Yeah, too bad there have not been record profits on wall st. to support modest tax increases on people who can afford it. (Oh, wait...tax increases will stifle job growth...no tax increases, no j... wait... there has been no tax increases, there has been record profits and there is no job growth)

Too bad that banks aren't awash in cash from some stimulus scam that would enable them to fund new small business...

Too bad, so sad...
bobtrain
5 / 5 (6) Sep 15, 2011
I don't know if it did any good, but I did write to my Senator (Mikulski) and she chairs the committee.
Hengine
5 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
YAY
Shootist
2.2 / 5 (13) Sep 15, 2011
Don't cha' love it when a bloated bureaucracy is rewarded for being a bloated bureaucracy?

Gotta keep the same 22000 scientists and engineers employed. 22000 whether we launch a shuttle, or not. $2billion a year whether the ISS comes down, or not.

Past saving. Hasn't done a notable thing, as an organization, since Apollo.
Nanobanano
2 / 5 (6) Sep 15, 2011
Hopefully, this thing doesn't crash and burn, since they spent so much money on it.

With the amount spent on it already, it's basically has to be finished, launched, used, and even maybe eventual maintenance missions, or else it's a complete waste of money.

I'm hoping they'll get the deep surveys done asap, realize they aren't going to find too much new to argue about anyway, and then use it for planetary astronomy instead, you know, do follow-ups on the planets other observatories have discovered, etc.

So little progress has been made in propulsion technology for probes, and we'd need to be orders of magnitude faster to even matter really, so I figure the next step for space telescopes beyond James Webb is the Space Telescope Array (or make some witty acronym.)

Why not just rig a power supplies (solar) to a bunch of radio antennas and launch them into space, with some ion engines for attitude control? Nothing too fancy, like the square kilometer array, in space...
typicalguy
3 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
The problem with NASA projects is that the folks making the proposals KNOW that they'll cost more than they claim they will at the start. They ALWAYS have "cost overruns". I put that in quotes because it's not really overruns. They know from the outset that the figures they're giving Congress are lies and Congress knows it too. In fact, many in Congress approve of this since it helps get them reelected.
Nanobanano
1.2 / 5 (5) Sep 15, 2011
Don't cha' love it when a bloated bureaucracy is rewarded for being a bloated bureaucracy?

Gotta keep the same 22000 scientists and engineers employed. 22000 whether we launch a shuttle, or not. $2billion a year whether the ISS comes down, or not.

Past saving. Hasn't done a notable thing, as an organization, since Apollo.


They're rocket scientists. They have to keep them on payroll here, because if they don't, someone else will, and for more sinister purposes: North Korea, Iran, etc.

It's blood money. We're held hostage by our own people, else they'd be "free" to leave the country if they were fired, and of course they are going to work where they have the skills: rocketry, satellite guidance, etc.

In this "global" economy, there is no such thing as loyalty or patriotism, as we all know. Both individuals and businesses will violate any law or principle, even their own principles, if they think it makes them an extra buck in the end.
eachus
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
There is the way things really work, and there is the way that bureaucrats and politicians pretend they work. I just wish the mainstream new media did its job, instead of spending their time pretending to believe in what they are being told, so that they won't lose the access they have. (Of course the access is to parties and to the lies that someone wants to feed them. It's a nice life if you don't have any morals.)

In this case what has been going on is that NASA bureaucrats move people and expenses around from programs that will have to deliver in the short term, to projects that won't complete until the bureaucrats involved have moved on. (In many cases to jobs at contractors. See revolving door.)

I won't say that the JWST could be launched tomorrow, but most of the major work has been done and all the mirrors have been delivered. The game that is being played is to hold NASA's feet to the fire so that money for the JWST doesn't get spent elsewhere before 2018.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2011
2018? Bleh..

Well, I guess after all the money invested it would be cringeworthy to cancel it. The question is, what will be done to ensure that such mess will not happen again? Let me guess, nothing..
rawa1
1 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2011
The question is, what will be done to ensure that such mess will not happen again? Let me guess, nothing..
It's actually quite simple - the firing the NASA boss could be enough. It would indeed slow down the astronomical research a bit, but the government would get a control over its cost.
CarolinaScotsman
5 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2011
I hope the Webb telescope is really saved. I'll know it is after it is launched.
jmlvu
5 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2011
Also funds the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, and the heavy lift Space Launch System which is nothing but a Saturn V rocket with a new nozzle for 16 billion. (20% improvement in thrust, big deal)
I support the telescope but the rest is just a jobs program.
210
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
Damn. I thought the anti Science Repugs would win this one.

I told you Vendi! Fear not the dark side, harm you it can but defeat all truth, it cannot!
- Yoda 210
jmlvu
4 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2011
The senate press release says it provide funds to enable a launch but there is no mention of the telescope in the actual bill. ( Classic shell game, The bill sets aside $1,063,000,000 for Orion and $1,985,000,000 for the rocket boondoggle. Did you see their hands as they stole the money)
Beard
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 16, 2011
NASA receives 0.6% of the budget, remember that when whining about costs. Anything that isn't spent on defense(offense), medical care or social security is just a tiny fraction of the pie.

I hope that the JWST can analyze the exoplanets that the Kepler mission discovered. I'm disappointed that it's taking so long though, they originally planned a launch for 2015 and now they're thinking 2020.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2011
"I told you Vendi! Fear not the dark side, harm you it can but defeat all truth, it cannot!" - 210

"Master 210, not victory. The shroud of the dark side has fallen. Begun, the Ditto Head War has!"
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2011
Zephir:

It isn't your money. You are a Czec and not an American.

Ethelred
Caliban
5 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2011
NASA receives 0.6% of the budget, remember that when whining about costs. Anything that isn't spent on defense(offense), medical care or social security is just a tiny fraction of the pie.


An excellent point, Beard, but here's the quibble: you can subtract Social Security from the budget, as it is not part of it, being fully funded by direct taxpayer contribution. It is a pension fund, and not part of the operating budget of the Federal government.

I suspect that the JWT was saved more through the efforts of private defense and aerospace contractor lobbying than as the result of taxpayer/constituent outrage, but am still happy to see this outcome.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2011
So what?
Nothing is final until a budget is passed.

ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 18, 2011
So what?
Nothing is final until a budget is passed.


And the Democrat led Senate has not passed a budget for over 800 days.
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (2) Sep 18, 2011
Damn. I thought the anti Science Repugs would win this one.

Damn. I thought the anti V.D. little boys would finally win one.
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2011
The problem with NASA projects is that the folks making the proposals KNOW that they'll cost more than they claim they will at the start.


The problem at NASA is the same as with many other projects run by all branches of the US government. The biggest problem is probably the way they write requirements that certain percentages of the project must be done in certain states, even though there might already be a facility in another state that is better suited to do the job. NASA needs to consolidate into a few facilities and concentrate the knowledge pool. Why is there a NASA office in New York, for example? Yeah, lets open an office in the most expensive place possible. That sounds good.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2011
Expensive space program is not bad because it wastes money, the amount is negligible compared to whole budget, and I am not even an american :p

Expensive space program is bad because it means proportionaly less will be achieved in space for the same cost. Remember that when someone whines about NASA costs.
eachus
5 / 5 (2) Sep 18, 2011
An excellent point, Beard, but here's the quibble: you can subtract Social Security from the budget, as it is not part of it, being fully funded by direct taxpayer contribution. It is a pension fund, and not part of the operating budget of the Federal government.


Have you been paying attention to the Republican Presidential debates? Perry says it is a Ponzi scheme, and the press fries him for it for all the wrong reasons. I am on Social Security. I'm not collecting the money I put in, but the money you put in this month. The "Social Security Trust Fund" is seen by politicians as a way to finance the National Debt at lower than market rates. In other words, the money isn't there, it was squandered by politicians of yesterday, and can't be "clawed back" even if the Social Security Administration wanted to try.

So if more money than is needed to pay Social Security benefits this month comes in, the excess is replaced by IOUs and counted by the Treasury as income. :-(