Full Funding Secured for James Webb Space Telescope
Minutes ago, the House and Senate came to an agreement on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) budget, which includes the full requested funding to ensure a 2018 launch for the James Webb Space Telescope. The vote was 70 to 30.
Unofficially dubbed Hubble 2.0, the Webb faced elimination when the House sought to use it as an example of NASA’s poor management and budget planning; the agency has been on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “high risk” list for more than 20 years. The approved CJS bill designates $529.6 million to the Webb for fiscal year 2012, which is the amount scientists say is necessary to ensure the project does not see further delays or budget increases. It also caps development costs at $8 billion and requires the GAO to regularly assess the project’s development; total life-cycle costs, including operations and data archiving, are currently estimated at $8.7 billion.
In a press release, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the Senate’s CJS appropriations subcommittee, said, “I believe in the science and innovation that have made America a world leader in discovery. There is no other mission planned either by NASA or any other space agency that can achieve the scientific goals of the James Webb Space Telescope. . . . I support the James Webb Space Telescope, but my support is not unconditional. I am holding NASA and its contractors to their revised estimates. We cannot accept any further overruns.”
The Webb telescope is being built partly at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt; Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute has a hand in planning and will take over operations upon launch. The institute is expected to increase its staff as the launch date approaches.