A House Divided Can Not Stand…
As the American Astronomical Society tries to rally support for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which was deleted from the budget, with extreme prejudice, by the House Appropriations Committee, other players chime in, and they are not quite as enthusiastic.
Spaceref published a copy of a letter from David Alexander of Rice University, Chair of the AAS Solar Physics Division.
“…However, the cost of the JWST threatens to swamp us all and the AAS should be careful, as a multi-disciplinary organization, to balance the various concerns of each of its constituents and to work towards a solution that does not promote one division’s interests at the expense of another’s. …”
The letter is to Kevin Marvel at the AAS and other AAS execs.
The AAS seems mostly worried about who leaked the letter.
So, Helio is worried that any JWST rescue will eat its lunch, with some justification.
Then, coincidentally, the Planetary Exploration Newsletter published a special editorial signed by many of the good and great from the AAS Division of Planetary Science, and the Geological Society of America.
“…We believe it is time to have an open debate on JWST and its value
across all targeted communities, from planetary, Earth science, and
heliophysics to human spaceflight. Congress needs to be informed about
the impact of the choices facing it.
We individually and together reject the premise that JWST must be
restored at all costs. ”
There is, of course, a large grain of truth to the concerns – ramping up JWST funding to enable its completion would have to take funding from outside Astrophysics, and historically Exploration and Operations don’t give, just take.
I think any plan involving payback from those Directorates is acute wishful thinking and unlikely to happen, though I’d love to be proved wrong.
Within Science, Helio, Earth Science and Planetary Science have their own priorities and JWST ranks from low to nowhere among these, and those Divisions do not want their own multi-year priorities set back indefinitely by Astrophysics’ years in the wilderness.
I fear Mikulski was right back when, the only way JWST goes through at this point is if the White House goes all out on it, and even then, in the current political climate, it may lose.
Interesting times, eh?