House Appropriations

House appropriations committee reported out the Science etc bill.
JWST remains deleted; armchair quantum wires are in…

Here we go.
Next step.

House appropriations committee approved the report of the subcommittee on Science etc for 2012 appropriations.

Bill was essentially unchanged, with minor amendments.

0.1% was shaved off everyone and given to NOAA.

And McCollum (D) put in two amendments prohibiting funding for corps convicted of felonies or owing taxes – that could have interesting consequences, wonder who that is aimed at.

Anyway, Sen. Mikulski put out another statement saying this was a bad idea, and would the Administration please do something.

Well, Senate next – does Mikulski think pressure from Obama is needed here, or is this cover?
Still very pessimistic about JWST’s chances in Senate of conference.

But, the firm directive to NIST to fund “armchair quantum wires” is still there,
or else…

Seriously: macroscopic carbon nanotube wires are a nifty idea, and $10+M has been spent on development – but it is not really NIST’s turf.
If you are going to stick it in somewhere in this subcommittee, then NSF seems like the place to try.
NASA already had a go – though how it was justified as STS power component in 2005 would make an interesting story…

But, really – either have it go through peer review, with an eye on progress in the last 6 years (up to cm size fibers now? which is actually impressive, with reports of a new acid extraction process) – maybe in DoE – which seems to have had a lot of $$$ for this sort of stuff in the last couple of years.
Or, maybe some actual company would care to “develop” this technology?
Like “General Electric”?
Or do they not actually do that kinda stuff any more???



  1. #1 Doug Lassiter
    July 14, 2011

    Re JWST, here’s my prediction. Senator Mikulski will come swooping in to the rescue, and mandate that NASA continue to fund JWST (which, if I interpret the rumors correctly about the replan, might get it launched at the end of 2018). But that mandate won’t carry any money. Just a directive. NASA is told to eat it, somehow.

    So Bolden is handed this mandate, and he’s got to make some decisions about whose head to chop off. He’ll go to Weiler, and Weiler will go to the NAC science committee, whose decision will roll over to the greater NAC. The advisory committee. Someone gets screwed, big time. The question is who. Perhaps the rest of the astrophysics program. Perhaps other divisions in SMD. Perhaps the human space flight program. In any event, blood will spurt.

    Now, Weiler could say that, look, in the Constellation era, SMD gave up money to prop up human space flight. He could argue that he needs a favor in return. Fat chance.

  2. #2 lyle
    July 14, 2011

    It all depends on what the continuing resolution says, since there will be no appropriation bills passed this year due to the gridlock and part time efforts of congress. (I say lock them in Washington and go 7 days a week until they get their act together no trips home). If its the lower of last year, or the house or senate passed bill in an area, assuming the senate does not get to the bill, then JWST is toast. No senator can save it in this mode.

  3. #3 AnonYmouse
    July 14, 2011

    The problem is that JWST is really badly overbudget, and despite the relatively optimistic Casani report, it’s in technical trouble too. The spacecraft isn’t even at PDR, and they have not even begun the hard part of testing the tennis-court-sized thermal shield that deploys. It needs to be descoped post haste to something more reasonable and feasible. I fail to believe that we astronomers couldn’t get excellent science out of a 3.5 – 4.0 m fixed aperture. JWST is certainly not worth sacrificing the rest of SMD, particularly in its current bloated form, which is quite likely to fail in a number of spectacular ways.

  4. #4 Patrick
    July 15, 2011

    Two quotes (below) from the House subcommittee report ( suggest that the merits and costs of JWST may be less important in the halls of Congress than the poor relationship between NASA and congress:

    “Although JWST is a particularly serious example, significant cost overruns are commonplace at NASA, and the Committee believes that the underlying causes will never be fully addressed if the Congress does not establish clear consequences for failing to meet budget and schedule expectations. The Committee recommendation provides no funding for JWST in fiscal year 2012. The Committee believes that this step will ultimately benefit NASA by setting a cost discipline example for other projects and by relieving the enormous pressure that JWST was placing on NASA’s ability to pursue other science missions.”

    “In opening remarks to his fellow appropriators, Wolf charged that NASA had “been hiding costs” associated with the telescope.”

  5. #5 Doug
    July 15, 2011

    Re JWST descope, the project has considered this with some care. You just don’t save a lot of money by doing it. If you remove the outer ring of mirrors, making it a much smaller telescope, you’ve reduced the total number of actuators by only about 10%. For a fixed design, the cost isn’t proportional to the mirror area. I&T will still kill your budget. It actually used to be an optical telescope (well, 0.7 microns). That option was descoped out long ago.

    The part of the observatory that is mainly uncompleted is the spacecraft. Really hard to do any descopes on that. Oh, yeah, we don’t really need power, comm, or propulsion!

    As noted in the comment above, the real tragedy of JWST isn’t the science that will be delayed and or lost, but the credibility of NASA, in the eyes of Congress, to manage large science projects. That will have ramifications that go well beyond JWST.

  6. #6 AnonYmouse
    August 4, 2011


    You speak with the voice of someone who doesn’t build – and deliver, then operate – flight hardware for a living. I do. It’s never too late to descope, and it’s completely ridiculous to assert that a 6.5m deployable (!) telescope and thermal shield is no less expensive than a fixed aperture 3.5m with fixed shield. That you have bought the line that the project has “considered this with some care” and still conclude that descoping doesn’t save money shows that you, like many in our community and on JWST, have been hoodwinked. You are also mistaken in saying that “the part of the observatory that is mainly uncompleted is the spacecraft.” Not true. They have manufactured some mirrors. They have not deployed said mirrors repeatedly under operating conditions and proven that they will work (which is the really hard part). They don’t even have working detectors yet. Let alone the system-level testing to ensure that this crazy thermal system they’ve got will work…

    Unfortunately, very few astronomers in our community have any experience in delivering flight hardware, or even building instrumentation at all. That makes us as a group a poor judge of the feasibility of large-scale projects. Of course it doesn’t help when those who should know better don’t face reality themselves.

    As it stands, without simplifying it considerably, the project is in great danger of being a technical failure as well as a management failure.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.