If you have been listening to the news lately you are aware that the US congress is trying to work out a way to settle the national budget for 2012. A 2012 spending bill proposed last week by the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA, would terminate the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as part of wider-reaching cutbacks that would reset the agency’s budget at pre-2008 levels.
JWST’s $6.5billion dollar price tag might seem massive, however that number encompasses the entire 20 year (or more) lifespan of the telescope, from inception, through design, build and launch, and finally ground and scientific support for several year post-launch. What this means is that they annual budget needs for the telescope are closer to an average of $500 million per year, and a far smaller number then what would be significant in a single year’s full national budget. It seems to me that the subcommittee that proposed this particular cut was out to cut a big name (publicly recognized) program rather then a program that was truly a budgetary concern for 2012.
The American Astronomical Society (AAS), the organization of US professional astronomers, issued a statement on July 7th protesting this plan to cancel the Webb Telescope, calling it “the centerpiece of U.S. space astronomy for the next two decades.” This statement is particularly meaningful with the current NASA shuttle mission being its last. NASA’s future has been focused on JWST for the last 10 years, ever since the decadal survey, done in 2000.
A grassroots group has started a petition writing campaign to a number of US congressmen to show that the public really does support the continuation of JWST. If you would like to join this grassroots effort, please sign the petition to Save JWST at Change.org today!
Click today to Save JWST!