I was devastated last month when I learned that Washington took a huge butcher’s knife to NASA’s budget which meant an almost certain death to their mindblowing replacement of the Hubble Telescope — the James Webb Space Telescope. The JWST is such an incredible scientific instrument that it will make the Hubble look like child’s play. But Scientific American is reporting today that NASA may have found a way of paying for it with — get this — human space flight:
NASA expects that the total cost of getting the 6.5-metre telescope to the launch pad by 2018 will be about $8 billion, around $1.5 billion more and three years later than an independent panel predicted in November 2010. Because in the next few years agency budgets are likely to be flat at best, scientists had feared that the JWST would end up swallowing the $1-billion astrophysics budget whole, or at least heavily eroding the $5-billion science-division budget. The new proposal would scrape money from other corners of the agency’s $18-billion budget, which also supports programmes such as aeronautics, technology development and human spaceflight. Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, says he is glad that the agency is making the JWST a priority. “There’s an acknowledgement that the science budget can’t solve this on its own,” says Mountain, whose institute operates the Hubble Space Telescope and is preparing to do the same for the JWST.
… But Brett Alexander, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, says that shifting the cuts onto other parts of the agency will definitely hurt. He points out that scientists complained loudly in 2006 when money was redirected from science to support the Constellation rocket-building effort. “Now the science community may be looking for human spaceflight money to cover the science overruns,” he says.
There is a whole lot more to the story, however, and you can get the full lowdown of the situation by reading the entire article over at Scientific American. Fingers crossed! This must happen.
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