Save The James Webb Space Telescope

It’s no surprise that our country doesn’t take science very seriously — just look at how NASA’s budget is getting cut.

There’s another (potential) budget casualty that’s not getting nearly the same press, but it’s just as frustrating. Congress may halt progress on the James Webb Space Telescope:

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies voted July 7 to cut funding for the telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. If funding is eliminated, about 500 jobs in Maryland would be affected, with the “vast majority” in Greenbelt, said U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington.

A decision is expected by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2011, Edwards said.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville said in an email that he is “disappointed” about the “significant” proposed cuts.

“This not only threatens the future of science research, but it will have a dramatic impact on our economy, costing 2,000 full-time private sector jobs in 22 states,” Hoyer said.

The infrared telescope is expected to launch in 2018 and examine the first galaxies that formed in the universe, Mather said. The project is 75 percent complete.

Reader Barret explains the significance of this potential cut (via email):

This telescope will allow us to see farther and in more detail than any other instrument ever built, by a lot… To a science student, it is a huge deal. When the Superconducting Super-Collider was scrapped, America lost the lead in particle physics research, and even though CERN is in operation, the SSC would have been much more powerful. We just lost the lead in manned spaceflight with the retirement of the shuttle. If this program is scrapped… we will also lose the lead in astrophysics research, and deal a blow to the field that may take decades to overcome. As you know, science opens our eyes and our minds. We can’t let it go.

What can you do about this? A Facebook page called “Save the James Webb Space Telescope” is encouraging everyone to call their representatives and tell them not to make this cut. There’s also a petition you can sign.

(If nothing else, just read the petition letter to get a better sense of the impact this telescope could have and why it’s so vital to save it.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Please support this program with letters and the petition. The United States is rapidly becoming the new Portugal. The Portuguese developed the most advanced sailing technology in the world, the caravel, and with it they explored the globe all the way to China.

    Then they left it all for the Spanish and English. 

    Now they’re a two day tourist stopover  on the way to somewhere else ifthere’s enough time.  We went all the way to the moon, and now we’re on the way to becoming quaint.

  • Faun

    Thanks for blogging about this!  I work at Goddard on the JWT and it’s great to see your support.

  • http://twitter.com/spaceguy87 Ben H.

    Hemant,
    Thanks for posting about this. Even here in Houston – Space City – some people are so oblivious to NASA that they think the last Sp[ace Shuttle flight last week marked the end of Mission Control and NASA itself, when in fact there is still a $18 billion dollar budget with lots of worthy projects (not to mention the ISS which I help fly at Mission Control). If people don’t know about it, then no one will complain to Congress to reverse this pential cut. The more blogs like this mention the issue, the more people might speak up!

    - Ben H.
    Mission Control, Houston, TX

  • http://www.facebook.com/bwessel Barret Wessel

    Thanks so much for putting this in the blog!

  • Anonymous

    This is unfortunate.  I hope it stays, because it’s on track much better than Hubble was, and we can see what would have been lost if that project was canned due to a lack of commitment.

  • Chibix17

    I don’t care about being in the lead, but I do care about science. Things like this make me sad to live in America.

  • Anonymous

    Somehow, the people who care about JWT have failed to capitalise on the massive public support for Hubble. When they had the country’s attention back in 2009, they ought to have done their awareness campaign then. Like Hubble? You need to lobby your politicians to support its replacement. 

    It just occurred to me that a well-funded advertising campaign on behalf of the JWT would be something that the atheist/sceptic community could spearhead.

  • Anonymous

    I think most people of a thoughtful, scientific background would like to see JWT go forward… but a large part of the house of representatives seems bent on crashing our entire economy. This is only a small portion of what we stand to lose.

  • http://twitter.com/neoteotihuacan Neoteotihuacan

    Thanks so much for mentioning the petition and the facebook page. It is a real boon to know that others care about the telescope the way we do. See our official blog for more information: 
    savethistelescope.blogspot.com


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