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

Senate Saves the James Webb Space Telescope!

Article Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
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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.

Go JWST!

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!

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27 Responses

  1. Phelan KA says:

    God bless America!

  2. PatrickR says:

    Am I reading this right, they didn’t defund other projects and priorities to find the money? That’s awesome. Still has to survive conference with the House but this is great news.

    • That too was exactly my first thought after I read this: that it still must survive conference committee. But there are a number of Republican congressmen who have made the JWST’s funding a prime target, and we can be sure that it will take a lot of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to get the concessions that house republicans will want in exchange for its continued construction.

    • That too was exactly my first thought after I read this: that it still must survive conference committee. But there are a number of Republican congressmen who have made the JWST’s funding a prime target, and we can be sure that it will take a lot of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to get the concessions that house republicans will want in exchange for its continued construction.

  3. Don Denesiuk says:

    Surprisingly the right thing was done, rare these days. I wonder if there is any quid pro quo regarding the SLS decision using STS derived components, something NASA seemed hesitant to do in the past?

  4. Don Denesiuk says:

    Surprisingly the right thing was done, rare these days. I wonder if there is any quid pro quo regarding the SLS decision using STS derived components, something NASA seemed hesitant to do in the past?

  5. Mike Hoffman says:

    That’s great news, but I have to admit this telescope worries me. At least the Hubble had the ability to be serviced in space which, let’s face it, saved it from certain doom on more than one occasion.

    I really hope the JWST is as reliable as the MERs cause if it ain’t, well, let’s not go there.

  6. Mike Hoffman says:

    That’s great news, but I have to admit this telescope worries me. At least the Hubble had the ability to be serviced in space which, let’s face it, saved it from certain doom on more than one occasion.

    I really hope the JWST is as reliable as the MERs cause if it ain’t, well, let’s not go there.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great! I thought about putting on Handel Hallelujah chorus, but the season is not right. So I thought maybe Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” might work, but then decided on his “Choral Fantasy.” This is indeed great news after a summer of rather disappointing news.

    LC

  8. Excellent. Still a way away. Despite overruns, Web’s a bargain compared to Hubble. El cheapo, really. It be silly to stop it now.

    • Chris says:

      Please note that I am looking forward to launch and the first images but you might want to look up the term “sunk costs”.

    • Chris says:

      Please note that I am looking forward to launch and the first images but you might want to look up the term “sunk costs”.

  9. Nick Buckley says:

    Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is about time the leaders in the U.S. stepped up and continued a portion of their nation’s legacy of being on the cutting edge of scientific discovery. There is no real price tag on what that title means in the big picture of the scientific community. The best and the brightest in this field have reason to stay in America while that nation continues to derive the fringe benefits of that status. With no real successor to Hubble, the U.S. was poised to take a back seat once again as they had done with the LHC in particle physics.

  11. Baris Bicer says:

    YES! YEEESSSSS! I feel the need to quote Portal now: This was a triumph! There’s definitely science to be done now. 😀

  12. Mika Viljakainen says:

    Skeptic would say that this whole thing is a nice marketing gimmick to captivate the attention of astronomy and technology enthusiasts by threatening to cut the number one project of the community, and then ‘miraculously’ bring it back.

    More bang for the buck. Saved by the bell, an so on? Let’s hope interorganizational wrangling and associated political games would not made the whole issue of science funding too ‘dirty’ in the future.

    Meanwhile, let’s celebrate.

  13. Sirrous_one says:

    For that money, I bet the optics will be perfect, not like the original HST mirror!

  14. Anonymous says:

    WOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!

  15. Niki Giada says:

    YEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. The project’s already generated something like 10 new ground-based use techs, many of them in optics, from the grinding technique used on the lenses to the motors that help move them.

  17. John van Houten says:

    Phew!

  18. Jyri Leskinen says:

    I’m darn worried that the exploding costs of this project will kill many other successful projects. What if they don’t fund an extension for Kepler because of this? That would mean no true Earth analogs will be found.

    As exciting the telescope is, I’ve had bad vibes for this from since the beginning…

  19. Chris says:

    From the recent posts I thought this thing was ready for launch. Bummer we have to wait until 2018.

  20. Chris says:

    From the recent posts I thought this thing was ready for launch. Bummer we have to wait until 2018.

  21. Anonymous says:

    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~

  22. Eoghan Griffin says:

    There is hope for humanity yet! 😀

  23. Frank Foder says:

    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.

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