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Webb telescope gets rescued in the Senate

jwst.jpg The James Webb Space Telescope would get US$530 million in 2012, and would be fully supported towards a 2018 launch, after a Senate subcommittee marked up a science appropriations bill today.

After a similar subcommittee in the House had voted to cancel the mission, many wondered what Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski would do, as the mission is managed in her state. At the subcommittee meeting today, the Senator said the beleaguered mission would get $530 million in 2012 — much more than the $374 million that had been asked for in the president’s budget request. But the agency as a whole would get $17.9 billion — half a billion less than it received in 2011.

So American Astronomical Society Executive Officer Kevin Marvel, who is obligated to support astronomers in heliophysics and planetary science, isn’t yet sure if this is a good thing. “It’s obviously a hopeful sign,” he says. “But we need to understand what the extra addition means. We’re concerned about offsets to other divisions.”

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    Heinrich Monroe said:

    The word “rescue” is a bit odd here. JWST isn’t “rescued”. The Senate came out with a bill that included it, and the House has a bill that doesn’t. Those two bills will have to be reconciled in what is a very cost-scared Congress.

    Sure, I guess it’s nice that the Senate thought they could afford JWST, but there was absolutely no question that the Senate bill, under the control of Senator Mikulski, whose GSFC is in charge of JWST, would let it go down. She also had a very favorable 302(b) allocation to work with.

    Also, notice that $530M seems a bit thin compared with the average expenditure needed from now until 2018 in order to spend $8B, which is the capped development cost. Sure, it’s partly because that capped cost includes contingency funds, but watch out. It could be a lot more pricey next year.

    As for this year, looks like $40M was taken from planetary astronomy, and $30M from Earth science.

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