Mikulski, Maryland Scientists Mark Opening of James Webb Space Telescope Exhibit in Baltimore
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced at a press conference at the Maryland Science Center this morning that next week, the Senate will secure funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which came under fire in July when the House Appropriations Subcommittee proposed cutting the project due to poor oversight and budget overruns.
“Next Tuesday the Senate will pass a federal budget that will include $500 million to put the James Webb into space and secure America’s place in astronomy for the next 50 years,” Mikulski, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), said. She hopes to have the budget signed into law by President Obama by Thanksgiving.
The press conference marked both an end and a beginning for the Science Center: The 12,000-pound full-size model of the James Webb, hailed as Hubble’s successor, will be disassembled starting tomorrow after two weeks at the edge of the Inner Harbor, but inside the Science Center is a new exhibit about the Webb, donated by Northrop Grumman. The exhibit features a small-scale model of the telescope, panels with information and pictures, and a TV running videos about the project.
Mikulski used the opportunity to stress the importance of the United States space program, as well as acknowledging Baltimore’s and Maryland’s roles in astronomy and space science, repeatedly calling Maryland “the space state.”
Also in attendance were John Grunsfeld, deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore and a former astronaut who flew on three Hubble servicing missions; Matt Mountain, executive director of STScI; Lori Garver, deputy administrator of NASA; and three Maryland Nobel laureates: Adam Riess, a Johns Hopkins professor and senior member of STScI who won the Nobel this year; John Mather, senior project scientist for the James Webb at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt; and Riccardo Giacconi, a Johns Hopkins professor.
“We’re all united in our belief that science and exploration is important,” Grunsfeld said. “I believe it’s actually written into the fabric of being human. . . . There’s no question that science is what drives innovation, drives the economy, drives jobs, and expands our knowledge of the universe.”
Grunsfeld was among the many speakers who thanked Mikulski for her continuing support of the space program, including fighting for multiple servicing missions to extend the life of the Hubble. He noted that the James Webb is named after a former NASA administrator who advocated for NASA science, not just human spaceflight, and suggested that the James Webb’s successor, whenever and whatever it might be, should be named the Mikulski Space Telescope.
Mikulski closed the conference with a ribbon cutting to open the new James Webb exhibit. “Today is a day to look at the future and know that the future is truly us and the future is truly American,” Mikulski said. “We’re unstoppable. I’ll do everything I can to make it happen, and may the force be with us.”