"The full House Appropriations Committee had been meeting for almost 3 1/2 hours yesterday when Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) rose to offer an amendment to provide $200 million for the James Webb Space Telescope in the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. A vote was pending on the House floor, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R- KY) was ready to take a final vote to pass the bill. After brief comments by Schiff and Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) a voice vote was called, and the amendment was rejected."
Congress Comes Closer to Killing NASA's James Webb Telescope
July 14, 2011 12:40pm ES
The James Webb space telescope, the successor to Hubble, just came one step closer to being thrown in the trash bin over budget cuts. Yesterday the House Committee on Appropriations approved a plan to slash NASA's budget for next year and explicitly kill the project.
The House and Senate still need to vote on the measure before it becomes law, but it's not looking good for expensive Webb. The costofdeveloping the telescope has ballooned over the years as NASA has had to invent whole new technologiesin order to make it work properly. Unlike the Hubble, the Webb will be much further from Earth in order to shield itself from infrared radiation, and its systems will need to function at extremely cold temperatures.
Adapting to those conditions has proved pricey for NASA. It's already spent $3 billion on the Webb, and the total cost is projected to be about $6.8 billion (it was initially budgeted at $1.6 billion total). However, once launched and put into place, the Webb will be so far from Earth that it will be impossible to service, so subsequent costswould involve only operating the telescope and analyzing its data (estimated at $1 billion over 10 years).
On Tuesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made an appeal to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to save the Webb. "I have tried to explain what I think is the importance of James Webb, in terms of opening new horizons far greater than we got from Hubble," Discovery News reported Bolden as saying. "I would only say that for about the same cost as Hubble in real-year dollars, we'll bring James Webb into operation."
His words apparently had little effect. Neither did an attempt to restore partial funding of the Webb with a eleventh-hour amendment from Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California. The Republican-dominated committee shot down the measure with a voice vote, Nature reported.
So what is at risk here? Do we have to have a new telescope, soon, right away? Will the money be available to properly test everything after it is integrated or will the lack of money follow right on through to launch and then have a failure? How important is our international cooperation and and loss of face if we back out now? A lot of questions that I hope folks are considering.
Hubble's images have graced the front pages of our newspapers, inspired thousands to look at the sky and think about our place in the universe. They've even been made into high-fashion dresses worn by the wife of Britain's prime minister, Samantha Cameron. If you've seen any pictures of stars, nebulae or galaxies in the past 20 years, there's a good chance they were taken by Hubble.
President’s FY 2012 Budget Request Detail Full Cost View
NASA FY 2012 Budget Request Executive Summary
Message from the Administrator
It is my privilege to submit President Obama's Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget request of $18.7 billion for NASA. Even in these difficult fiscal times, this budget supports all elements of the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010, along with the President’s agenda of innovation, education, and infrastructure. However, tough choices had to be made. That is why this budget prioritizes urgent needs, while continuing the Agency's focus on a reinvigorated path of exploration, innovation, and technological development leading to an array of challenging destinations and missions. Today, we begin to win the future..
The dedicated NASA workforce across the Nation is energized to continue our missions throughout the cosmos and here on Earth. The Agency continues to develop a capability-driven framework for affordable, sustainable, and realistic exploration, and this budget aligns our plans with the Authorization Act in a long-term, affordable, and sustainable manner.
Our priorities are to: safely fly out the Space Shuttle this year and maintain safe access for humans to low Earth orbit as we fully utilize the International Space Station; facilitate safe, reliable, and cost effective U.S.-provided commercial access to low Earth orbit for crew and cargo as soon as possible; begin to lay the ground work for expanding human presence into deep space through development of a powerful rocket and modern crew capsule; and pursue technology development to carry humans farther into the solar system even as we extend our reach with robots and observatories and make the most of technological breakthroughs to improve life here at home.
Building on President Obama's charge to all Federal agencies, we will carry out programs of innovation to support long-term job growth and a dynamic econ omy by increasing investment in research and technology. We will educate the next generation of technology leaders through vital programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. We will build the future through those investments in American industry to create a new job-producing engine for the U.S. economy while we remain committed to Federal goals to be stewards of our communities and make progress in our use of clean energy at our facilities.
The FY 2012 budget sets ambitious but achievable goals that foster America's continued leadership in space and forges deeper and more effective partnerships with the growing number of nations that are taking part in the space exploration enterprise. The space program remains a great value for the American taxpayer. The Agency's FY 2012 budget helps NASA to be more nimble and responsive to opportunity and encourages us to embrace a crosscutting approach to our thinking and planning that builds on the connections between our diverse missions.
NASA is at the forefront of a bright future for America—a future in which we challenge ourselves to create a global space enterprise with positive ramifications across the world. The FY 2012 budget provides the resources for NASA to innovate and discover on many fronts, and we look forward to implementing it.