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Senate Saves the James Webb Space Telescope!

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.

JWST's mirror segments are prepped for testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA/Chris Gunn.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. 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.”

– 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 Launch 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.


NOTE: While the JWST program has been specifically included in today’s markup, the bill itself still needs to be approved by the full appropriations committee and then go to the Senate floor for a vote. It then must be reconciled with the House version before receiving final appropriation. Still, this is definitely one step closer to getting the JWST off the ground! Read more on ScienceInsider here.

You can show your continued support for the JWST by liking the Save the James Webb Space Telescope Facebook page and – even more importantly – by contacting your congressperson and letting them know you care!


A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous September 15, 2011, 4:15 PM

    By now I thought we’d have a radio telescope in one of the craters on the far side of the Moon. Waiting with ‘baited breath’ for that one doesn’t seem to help. If the legacy of the development of the JWST is an indicator, I’ll be long gone before anything like that happenszuh… rats~

  • Eoghan Griffin September 15, 2011, 5:38 PM

    There is hope for humanity yet! 😀

  • Frank Foder September 15, 2011, 9:12 PM

    The Senate didn’t save JWST. The Senate included it in their own CJS appropriations bill. That bill, after it passes the Senate, has to be reconciled with the bill coming out of the House, which doens’t have JWST in it. So nothing is settled until that “conference” action. In fact, to the extent there is another continuing resolution, JWST will be funded at the level it was funded last year, which will probably propagate into the total cost and schedule, and make it later and more expensive.

    Given Barbara Mikulski’s leadership on that committee, and the generous 302(b) allocation it got, it was no big surprise that the Senate bill would include it.

    By the way, at $530M, it’s getting a lot less money than what one can calculate should be the average funding between now and 2018. That number looks to be something like $700-750M/yr. This would seem to mean that larger budgetary pains are being put off until later.