NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, JWST for short, has received critical Congressional funding according to a report from Scientfic American. Back in July the U.S. House of Representatives nearly terminated the program when a subcommittee responsible for NASA’s funding claimed the program was “plagued by poor management”. The Senate wrote money into it’s budget, however. Fortunately for NASA, the Senate and the House were able to reach a compromise on November 17th and JWST funding was appropriated.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a NASA project designed to replace the well known Hubble Space Telescope. It is an infrared optimized space telescope designed to look into the deepest regions of space. It will serve as the premier observatory for scientists all over the world. Equipped with some innovative and extremely sensitive equipment which will enable it to be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 27 micrometers in wavelength. The telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST). In 2002 it was renamed after former NASA Administrator, James Webb. He was also the father of the Apollo program.
Deep Space Equals Deep Pockets
One of the big problems with this project has been the amount of funding and missed deadlines. It is estimated that the cost of this project will exceed $8.8 billion dollars. With the funding also came cuts. NASA will have to deal with a total budget of $17.8 billion, which is about half a billion dollars shy of last year’s budget totals. The launch date has also been a moving target. At one point, it had a launch date as recently as 2010. Now it appears that NASA has a goal to launch in 2018. Despite the cutbacks, NASA seemed optimistic in its response to Congress’ continued funding:
It’s certainly a major improvement in our position,says NASA’s John Mather, senior project scientist for JWST and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. Especially considering that not too many months ago one of the subcommittees voted to give us zero dollars.
The good news is that this project continues to make progress in spite of political wrangling. Yesterday, NASA announced that the assembly stand was completed for the telescope’s flight optics. “This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope’s optical telescope element,” said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard. Our own Debjyoti Bardhan also reported about significant progress on the telescope’s mirrors in his article, “Hubble Successor: U.S. Senate Decision Pulls The James Webb Telescope Out of Deep Trouble” back in September.
Hopefully this project can stay on track and make it to completion. There are deep mysteries in our Universe just waiting to be discovered. The JWST will bring us so much closer to the origins of our Universe and unraveling the great mysteries before us.