Monday, August 22, 2011

A Change in the Overall Price Tag of JWST

Dear Science Warriors:

The James Webb Space Telescope is in trouble. On July 13, 2011, the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies voted to cut funding for the JWST from NASA's FY2012 budget. Since that time, there has been a groundswell of support building for this next giant leap of science and technology. Many people in the USA and around the world want JWST to fly, and hope that this telescope doesn't become another Superconducting Super Collider.

Ruins of the Superconducting Super Collider near Dallas, Texas, a stark reminder of the shortsighted nature of Congress. Click to embiggen.

And now, just yesterday (Monday Aug 22 2011) we read news that the overall price tag of the JWST will be going up, despite the fact that the United States has already spent most of this money for JWST:

"Managers at NASA replanning the James Webb Space Telescope program after an independent cost analysis found it over budget and behind schedule have concluded it will cost about $8.7 billion to finish the telescope in time for a launch in 2018 and operate it at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point for five years." - Aviation Week

Discovery News, Aviation Week, Universe Today and NASAWatch have reported on the increase, casting doubt on the future of the JWST. It may come as a surprise to many that JWST may require an additional $3.6 billion worth of funding to fly. However, it does not change the critically important role the JST will play in the technical and scientific advancement of the human species. It certainly does not change our fundamental need to understand the universe, nor the millions upon millions of children and adults, around the world, who will be affected by the scientific discoveries and breakthrough technological spin-offs afforded by JWST. A small example of that effect from "The Economic Impacts of the US Space Program":

"Midwest Research Institute (MRI) study of the relationship between R&D expenditures and technology-induced increases in GNP indicated that each dollar spent on R&D returns an average of slightly over seven dollars in GNP over an eighteen-year period following the expenditure (3). Assuming that NASA's R&D expenditures produce the same economic payoff as the average R&D expenditure, MRI concluded that the $25 billion (1958) spent on civilian space R&D during the 1959-69 period returned $52 billion through 1970 and will continue to stimulate benefits through 1987, for a total gain of $181 billion."
- The Economic Impacts of the US Space Program

NASA stimulates innovation in the US and global economies. It creates jobs and income for many Americans and helps bring research dollars to the United States of America from other nations. For example, The ESA (European Space Agency) and the CSA (Canadian Space Agency) both are helping the US to fund and build the JWST.

And if an additional $3.6 billion still sounds high, we would like you to know that this is still only a fraction of what the US Federal Government spends annually. How much of a fraction? The new JWST total would be 0.25%...a quarter of 1 percent of the overall Federal Spending for 2010, for example. How much does that compare to the Defense Budget of the United States? The new total for the JWST would equal only 1.3% of what we spent on the entire Military in the US. It sounds like a great deal of money on the surface, but when compared to the other things the US spends money on, it seems insignificant. Except that the JWST is anything but insignificant. It is still the next greatest leap in our understanding of the Universe and our place in it. And overall, JWST represents an angle of the United States's personality that is hard to quantify. We'll let Neil deGrasse Tyson explain it better than we can:

Good News from NASA:

And so, we've received a little bad news concerning the budget of the JWST. If you are a supporter of the James Webb Space Telescope, then you should know that occasionally we will get some bad news. However, do not be dismayed, because NASA itself considers this to be a priority which means that this telescope is likely to fly (most especially with your support)!! NASA announced yesterday as well that it will request of the federal government that NASA be allowed to fund JWST from the entire agency and not just one individual NASA fund:

"The flagship observatory is currently funded entirely through NASA's science division; now NASA is requesting that more than US $1 billion in extra costs be shared 50:50 with the rest of the agency. The request reflects administrator Charles Bolden's view, expressed earlier this month, that the telescope is a priority not only for the science programme, but for the entire agency." - Nature News Monday Aug 22 2011

Ultimately, NASA wants the JWST to fly and is fighting to keep it alive. NASA's chief administrator Charles Bolden has expressed that the JWST is one of NASA's top three priorities.

The public wants JWST to launch because they realize that it is vital economically and scientifically to our future. Scientists all over the world know that JWST must fly because of the necessary work in science it represents and that not launching it would set science back a number of years. NASA itself admits the importance of the JWST and is making huge arrangements to make sure that JWST happens. The only people who need convincing are our representatives in Washington DC. Since they work for you, they will listen to you. You just have to tell them how you feel. Tell them that the JWST represents all that is good, innovative, bold, and smart in American science.Tell them that the James Webb Space Telescope must fly.

Stay tuned to this blog and to the facebook page for further information concerning the fight to save the James Webb Space Telescope. We will continue to be a rallying point for this grassroots campaign.

As always Space Warriors, do your part:
a) Sign the Petition
b) Like the Facebook Page
d) Spread the Word



  1. Feel free to use the first one minute of footage from my non-profit film to promote this cause. My film using photographs and imagery from every space mission including heavy use of Hubble and Cassini. It shows the power of these images to transform our understanding of ourselves and our universe. The clip went viral with 3.2 million hits.

  2. Stephen v2...would you mind providing us with a link?

  3. Hey I want to put your petition on my website. I'm on Student Government at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. We have a website for political opinions and activism

    One of our students, Eric Topel, is passionate about saving the JWST and he wrote a post which you can view at:

    So if our students care about this, we want to make it easy for them to get involved. If you can send me the embed code for the petition, we can make it a permanent feature on our site, even after Eric's post is no longer on our front page. (I'm sure your aware, but giving me the embed code wouldn't allow me to edit the petition or anything, so don't worry about that.)

    Email me at

  4. Nice article, thanks for the information. It's very complete information. I will bookmark for next reference
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