The James Webb Space Telescope -NASA’s overbudget, delayed successor to the Hubble Space Telescope- will see the light of
day the stars after all in 2018, if all goes according to plan, thanks to a lifeline thrown out to it by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
A detailed report on the 2012 science budget resolution released by its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Friday clarified that although NASA’s overall budget is slated to be slashed by 2.8 percent in 2012 (from $18.5 billion to $17.9,) the agency will actually receive even more money that it asked for specifically to continue building the giant, infrared orbital telescope.
The report allocates $529.6 million for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) versus the $354.6 million for the year NASA had originally requested in its own 2012 budget proposal.
“This is good news,” said Joanne Carney, director of the office of governmental relations of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, a nonprofit agency that publishes the journal Science.
“However, it isn’t the final budget resolution, just a draft,” Carney added in a telephone interview with TPM’s Idea Lab, “It remains to be seen how the final funding levels will play out in Congress.”
Congress is supposed to pass the 2012 federal budget before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, but obviously that’s not going to happen in time. A continuing resolution introduced on Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee would continue funding the government (frozen at 2011 levels) through November 18.
Carney predicted that Congress will pass several more continuing resolutions after that to delay voting on the final budget.
Still, the report clears up a controversy that gripped the science blogosphere this week after the Senate appropriations subcommittee introduced the resolution on Wednesday without a detailed breakdown of exactly how much money the JWST would get.
The JWST was on the Congressional chopping block after the House appropriations committee introduced a bill on July 7 that would reduce the NASA 2012 budget by $1.6 billion, a quarter of which was slated for the James Webb Space Telescope.
The subcommittee was blunt it its rationale, writing in a press release: “The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.”
The total estimated cost of the telescope has ballooned from $5 billion to $8.7 billion. Already, $3 billion has been sunk into the project, which is being constructed primarily at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.