≡ Menu

Proposed NASA Budget Bill Would Cancel James Webb Space Telescope

Artist impression of the James Webb telescope. Image credit: NASA

The US House Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee has proposed a NASA spending bill that would put NASA’s budget at pre-2008 levels and cancel the $6.5 billion James Webb Space Telescope. Space News reports that the proposal would cut $1.6 billion from NASA’s current budget, which is nearly $2 billion less than President Obama’s 2012 budget request for NASA, giving the space agency just $16.8 billion to work with.

This news is not sitting well with scientists and researchers, with one astrophysicist saying this move could “kill US space science for decades.” Dr. C. Megan Urry, Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Chair of the Yale Physics Department said she has already written her congressmen and representatives to stand against this bill, “for the good of science, STEM education, and the nation.”

“I think this is an extremely serious situation,” Urry told Universe Today, “and I think the James Webb Telescope is an extraordinarily important mission. It was recommended in the 2000 Decadal Survey and was strongly endorsed in the 2010 Decadal Survey, so the science community has supported this mission for a long time.”

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) quickly responded with a statement objecting to the axing of JWST, saying “Over the past year, NASA managers and the science community have undertaken a concerted effort to establish a budget and technology plan that allows the launch of JWST by 2018. The proposal by the Congress to terminate the program comes at a time when these efforts are coming to fruition.”

The press release that came out along with the draft states that that the bill terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope because it is “billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.”

Space News reports that the draft appropriations bill, which the subcommittee is scheduled to vote on July 7, also includes $1.95 billion for the Space Launch System — the heavy-lift rocket Congress ordered NASA to build for deep space exploration. The proposed 2012 funding level is $150 million more than the heavy lifter got for 2011, but some $700 million below the amount recommended in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which became law in October. The bill would trim $431 million from NASA science, compared to 2011 enacted levels.

NASA may be an easy target for budget cuts in these lean times Reports like the one on NPR that stated the US military spends over $20 billion a year just for air conditioning the tents in Iraq and Afghanistan have many wondering about priorities in government.

“Killing the JWST is not the answer to budget woes,” said astrophysicist Brooke Simmons via Twitter.

It should be noted that JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and there is nothing else even remotely in the works that could replace what JWST is designed to do.

On the proposed JWST cancellation, Dr. William S. Smith, President of AURA said “Against a backdrop of widespread discussion over the future of NASA and the human spaceflight program, it is tragic that the Congress is also proposing to curtail NASA’s science program. JWST is NASA’s premier science facility, unsurpassed by any other telescope now or in the future.”

Sources: Space News, NPR , Appropriations Committee Press Release


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Torbjörn Larsson July 7, 2011, 3:47 PM

    More Commerce, less Science – where is the Justice?

    So, unless ground based telescopes can step up (or the mentioned Herschel), another window to the exciting field of exoplanets can be out. And all the other stuff on the early/big universe.

    I pitch in with others here, if this happens and when US space science recovers, maybe it is time to go International™ as easily as it was to go Commercial™. It is probably harder to bungle cooperative projects too, too many risk their positions.

  • Eric Ellis July 7, 2011, 3:51 PM

    This is awful. My employer did some prototyping work for NASA Goddard for JWST. Hope it doesn’t get cancelled…

  • Anonymous July 7, 2011, 4:01 PM

    Mismanaged? NASA has the charter to manage the program. Maybe the era of “spectator management” is coming to an end. Too many programs, both space and defense are managed from afar. If you were building a house you would be checking your contractor progress everyday, not in a monthly Program Management Review (PMR). Embed your people into the management team so you know what’s going on and stop asking them to tell you how the program is going.

  • ITSRUF July 8, 2011, 12:30 AM

    Just a point about the US spanding money on wars….

    The cost of the 9 year war in Iraq is about the same amount as the “Unjust” Obama stimulus project that “wasn’t as shovel-ready as we had hoped.”

    The cost of the war (not including lives of course) over nine years is equal to 25% of the YEARLY budget of the US. So was the Stimulus Package. Instead of wasting 1 trillion $ on stimulus that didn’t work, that money could have gone to NASA. Could you imagine NASA with a $1T budget?

  • Christopher Eric Smith July 8, 2011, 8:53 AM

    This makes me hate my country more than any other news I have heard recently. War on drugs, FAIL….war on “terror”…who knows. America needs a f*cking reboot….I’m 36 and I swear to god if this telescope is sh*t canned it will be the worst news….ugh.

    AMERICANS PLEASE GOD WAKE UP!!!!!! PRIORITIES MAN….lets stop ALL global poliece unless a situation of Genocide…get some health care like every other 1st world nation and lets FIGURE OUT THIS WHOLE UNIVERSE THING…PLEASE!!!!

  • Christopher Eric Smith July 8, 2011, 9:01 AM

    Still angry, mabye I am oversimplyfying. But how much money have we spent on making sure that people don’t smoke POT. How many MORE Steal Fighters do we need REALLY!? Do we REALLY need a stealth NAVY? COME ON!!!!!

    As someone who has recently started living over seas in a few countries, I no longer see America as the land of the free. People in Sydney and in Prague are MUCH more free than I have EVER been in my country.

    America is the land of the illinformed populace, the scared government…it’s the most scared country in the world. American freedom is the right to own a pistol…this is not freedom, this is crap. America is a big dumb “jock” and it acts like it constantly. I’m sick of it.

    The things the people in my country care about are all based on living a life entirely IN our country, and taking everything we hear and know at face value. Does our government over spend..YES…does that mean you stop spending money on EVERYTHING NO!?

    You stop spending on things that don’t matter, and you continue spending on things that DO matter. Things like the health of the people in our nation, the saftey of the people in our nation (I think we have this down for more than 50 years or so) and by leading the world in the advancement of the human race.

    BUT…maybe I’m wrong…I think it’s better that America spend it’s money on finding new and creative ways to kill Arabs…yeah…now that I think about it…this is for sure the best way to forge ahead.

  • Bossy Girls Femdom July 10, 2011, 12:42 AM

    Lawmakers are mostly lawyers not engineers. Applying economic concepts used to cancel the JW telescope, landing on the Moon could have been canceled. The lawmakers are the people who approved 1 trillion $ for Economic Stimulus and the new Health Care system. This reflects their wisdom or lack of it