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


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The American Astronomical Society

Greeting Science Warriors,

News and efforts concerning the plight of the JWST are growing exponentially. has brought recent awareness to the public. Astronomy Now Magazine is releasing a news update in this month's issue concerning the JWST. The Journal Nature has briefly discussed JWST on its website. Dr. Lawrence Krauss has advocated in the pages of The Wall Street Journal for continuing ahead with the JWST mission. NPR's Science Friday has talked about the issue over the airwaves. The Washington Post opened the subject favorably in its Sunday editorial. Northrop Grumman advocates for its creation, saying bluntly "...there is no mission planned by any other space agency that can achieve the science goals of JWST". AURA - the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy - has made a strong statement supporting the JWST and provided general resources for the public to use to gain awareness of the issue. The AAS (American Astronomical Society) is sending representatives directly to Capital Hill to discuss the JWST issue with key members of Congress. 

All this and more is happening right now because many people and organizations realize that the James Webb Space Telescope is important to the future of humanity and therefore MUST FLY. However, it all means nothing if YOU do not contact your representatives. While most of us agree that JWST represents all that is good, innovative, bold and smart in American science, members of Congress do not automatically see it that way. YOU MUST MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

What the AAS is doing

As you may know, the American Astronomical Society has been vocal about supporting the James Webb Space Telescope during its time of crisis. Only 36 days ago, the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Commerce Justice and Science voted NOT to continue funding for the JWST while building the architecture of a larger budget bill. The AAS recognized this as a travesty and a waste, as many of us have. The JWST should fly because it represents all that is good, innovative, bold, and smart in American science. The American Astronomical Society understands this, too.

The AAS penned an informational letter addressed directly to the public. The main concern of the letter is "what can you do?" The AAS has listed many plausible avenues of action for a concerned US citizen. We suggest you take a few minutes and read through them. The most important item on the list is, basically, CONTACTING YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. Nothing else can do so much to guarantee that the James Webb Space Telescope launches and revolutionizes our universe.

Also addressed in the letter are the actions the AAS has been taking on behalf of JWST:

  • AAS members have gone to DC to discuss the JWST issue with congressional members now, during the August recess. 
  • In discussions with congressional members, it was noted that JWST overall project management was reorganized, the budget adjusted and the telescope on schedule for a 2018 launch date. 
  • AAS members conversed with Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia and Representative Chaka Fattah staff members, noting that the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce Science and Justice wanted the budgeting issues concerning JWST and other NASA projects to get NASA attention on certain management issues. 

What's Next? 

According to contact AAS members made with Rep. Wolf's and Rep. Fattah's staff members, it is important that 

  • NASA's "rebaselined" JWST plan be approved by the Executive Branch's Office of Management and Budget
  • The next vote will come after a Senate-House agreement on a final NASA budget where the SENATE (not House of Reps) Committee on Commerce, Justice and Science will vote on the future of the JWST
  • The AAS promises to be a leader in the fight to save JWST and will provide further updates in the near future. 
We suggest you check out the AAS website materials concerning the JWST. Review the contents of this blog for up-to-date news, important links and resources, and explanations of the science behind JWST. And as always: 

   a) Sign the Petition
   b) Like the Facebook Page
   d) Spread the Word


Sunday, August 7, 2011

saveJWST Resource & News Update

Greetings Science Warriors,
Let us not forget that the James Webb Space Telescope is still in trouble.

Quick review of new information concerning the fight to save the JWST:

  • We still do not know the date of the next vote in the House of Representatives

  • All of the primary mirrors have been polished (most difficult task in building JWST)

  • NASA has completed coating 13 of 18 primary mirror segments and will complete the rest by early next year (this is a post-polishing requirement)

  • 3,603 petition signatures, 3,670 Facebook Likes, and thousands of reTweets

Technician working in the process of mirror polishing
Several members of Congress advocate for the JWST. Among those representatives are Congressman Steny Hoyer, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and Representative Adam Schiff. Contacting you representatives and letting them know you want the JWST to fly is THE BEST idea. However, if you live in any of the districts of the above mentioned politicians and since they are already on your side, you should contact them and ask them how you can help.

Timeline of major telescope instrument missions. As you can see many are scheduled to end quite soon

In the last few weeks, several organizations and personalities have publicly endorsed the JWST. Among the most notable are:
  • Northrop Grumman, the primary contractor on JWST, has created an amazing webpage that cuts right to the chase about why the telescope is important for science and for America's leadership in the world. Most importantly, the webpage features a built in mechanism for contacting your representatives about JWST.

  • has written an article describing what JWST has ALREADY done for humanity and for science, now, before it has even launched. This article also mentions the public support that is growing against the possible cancellation of JWST.

  • The Washington Post featured a Sunday editorial discussing why it would be a waste of money TO CUT the JWST. The author argues that since it is nearly complete, it would greatly benefit the public to finish the telescope and not waste what has already been spent in construction.

  • Dr. Lawrence Krauss writes an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal advocating for the JWST (must be a WSJ subscriber to access full article online)

  • Among the blogs and tumblrs of the world, people are writing and creating and advocating for JWST, including this example video on youtube form user jnosanov.

When spreading the word, be sure to cite these articles and comments in your discussions. As the fight to save this telescope progresses, more media outets and experts of various colors will step forward to cover/discuss the merits of JWST.

Polished mirrors in all their glory
The James Webb Space Telescope seems to be caught up in a larger battle over the role of the United States Federal Government. Regardless of how you see that role, there is still room for science to improve all of our lives, to shed light on the most important questions in human existence, and to help keep America at the forefront of scientific research and innovation. The James Webb Space Telescope represents all that is good, innovative, bold, and smart in American Science.

There is still much to do, people. And there will be more to come in the story of the James Webb Space Telescope. Stay tuned to this blog, to the Facebook page, and the saveJWST twitter account for the latest news regarding the fight to save the James Webb Space Telescope. And remember the 4 steps to save the JWST:
a) Sign the Petition
b) Like the Facebook Page
d) Spread the Word

Technicians in Huntsville examine one of JWST's mirrors


Monday, August 1, 2011

SaveJWST Campaign Update

Greetings Science Warriors:

Just a reminder...the James Webb Space Telescope is in Trouble.

This blog represents efforts by volunteers to bring awareness to the possibility that Congress may vote to cut funding for this amazing new chapter in the Human Story. That vote will be coming to the United States House of Representatives very soon, although we do not yet know the exact date. The House Appropriations Subcommittee concerning Commerce, Justice, and Science has already voted NOT to further fund the JWST. Now we are waiting to discover the date that this bill goes to vote for the entire US House of Representatives.

Hopefully, the US House of Representatives will understand that the JWST is important not just for securing science jobs here in the US, but also important for keeping the United States on the forefront of the current scientific revolution and for keeping the US competitive internationally. Most importantly, the JWST will be a beacon of understanding our place in the universe. JWST will usher in a new wave of scientific discoveries and see near to the beginning of time. Hopefully, the US House of Representatives will understand this, too.

While we are waiting for official confirmation of the date of the full vote in the House of Representatives, we should be about the business of getting the word out about saving the JWST. Doing your part is easy. Simply follow the following steps:

  1. Sign the petition at [Click here to do so now]
Just recently, the number of petitions signatures has reached 3,500 signatures! For only 20 days of active signature collecting, this is a fantastic effort and it shows without a doubt that the telescope is important to many people. Some of you may be asking yourself, "what good can online signatures do?" To this, we say that the petition is only a representation of the interest the people have in JWST. For the ultimate good that you can do, follow step 3 [contacting your representatives]. For the petition, when the time comes, we will be be able to show elected officials and the nation the impressive amount of petition signatures we will have, and those people in turn will see it as a measurement of the will of the people. If you are a resident of the United States of America, then sign it now. 

     2. Like the Facebook Page [Click here to do this now]

The Facebook fan page is like the petition in one important distinction; it will ALSO act as a measurement of the will of the people. The Facebook page will also, unlike the petition, be a rallying point for updates and news concerning the effort to save the James Webb Space Telescope. Check in frequently to learn about new articles concerning the JWST, for news about the battle to deprive the JWST of funding, and to interact with other Science Warriors who, like you, are putting in their support for this most important Next Step in the story of Humanity. 

      3. CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES [Click here to find them]

By far, the most important thing you can do is to contact all of your Representatives and Senators and let them know that you are a supporter of the JWST and they you want to continue the telescope's funding. Call them. Email them. Write them via snail mail. Each representative will have a preferred method they they respond best to. With just a tiny bit of research, you can find out if an email or a phone call will have the best chance of reaching them. Regardless of how contact is achieved, DO CONTACT them. This one step will save the JWST from Congress's own shortsightedness. 

      4. Spread the Word

After you taken these steps, it is also crucial that you tell others what you've done and why you've done it. Ask them if they support keeping the United States at the forefront of science in the world. Ask them if it is important to them that Humanity know it's place in the universe, that we try to understand just what the universe is and how it has come into being. Ask them if they, too, will contact their representatives. Then, show them how. 

Ladies and gentlemen, as soon as we know the date of the next vote in the House of Representatives, we will tell all of you via Twitter, Facebook, the Petition, and this blog. Stay tuned for new information about the JWST funding battle. Also, feel free to browse this blog for past posts on what kinds of science experiments the JWST will perform, guest posts from people in Astronomy and other sciences who will speak about the JWST, as well as updates on the legal battle to come. 

And before we say anything else, we would like to let you know about the Northrop Grumman website advocating for the James Webb Space Telescope. If you didn't already know, NG is the contracted company that is constructing the telescope's major components. It is a really nice site that includes a media gallery, an information center, and most importantly it has a "Take Legislative Action" center. It is an impressive effort on behalf of those involved with the telescope's creation. Be sure to check it out, and to use it as a tool to help spread the word about JWST. 

Fight on, Science Warriors.