Jinxed Wishful Space Telescope

As everybody knows, there is one thing you must never do before launch, and that is name it.

Total jinx.

Not of course that we are superstitious, that'd be silly.
Some of us just cringed when the Next Generation Space Telescope was given a proper name by an over keen administrator while still in pre-pre phase A.

Still, we muddle along, and so it goes.
Then came the delays, and cost overruns, and reviews and reports.
Not all of it was NASA's fault - I have clear memories of Congress vacillating for a year or two on authorizing use of a foreign heavy launcher, even though it was clear the Shuttle would not be available and nothing else had a faring big enough... that was few hundred million $ down the drain while everything was on hold.
Anyway, water under the bridge etc

Then we started getting serious heat on the project - I started hearing rumbles from the community that JWST would eat all of astrophysics, with combination of launch delays and increased annual costs, and whispers of whether we'd be better off without it. "We" being astronomers in the US and to some extend Europe, not, of course, counting those astronomers heavily tied into JWST instrument teams etc.

Then a funny thing happened.
JWST funding was removed from the Astrophysics division at NASA Science directorate, and stuck out on its own as a separate line item.
Like with a Big Sign on it.

Some of us started wondering...
I mean really...?
Would they...?
Not that I'm paranoid or anything...

Told you so.

ecce speculum

House appropriations committee deleted JWST funding for fiscal 2012

Now, it ain't over till its over.
Senate will have a say, and Mikulski does not like GSFC projects axed, though she requested the Casani report that started the current phase of review.
Funding could be restored in the Senate, or in conference, and might survive all the way through the process.
Or not.

Either way it is a bit of disaster: if JWST is axed there will be a bloodbath in astronomy in the US, and if it is not, there will be a thousand cuts bathing astronomy in blood.
There just is not enough money being appropriated to actually do all these things, either more money must be injected as a political priority, or something, a lot of things, must give.

The committee links also has some dark news for NOAA, NIST, OSTP and NSF.
Have not heard from committees responsible for DoE or NIH yet.
More on that later.
But things are happening fast, and in the context of the sweeping cuts proposed as part of the debt ceiling negotiations.
These are not considered decisions, they are hack and slash lashings out.

We're not done.
If JWST is cut, as things stand, the money will not return to Astrophysics, it is a permanent loss.
So the squeeze will remain.
We may be looking at more cuts descending from the Senior Review for ongoing missions: that means more MODA cuts to Swift, Chandra, even Hubble.
I'm figuring Planck will be allowed to finish; US contribution to Herschel is probably too small to matter, and Fermi and Kepler are going strong, if somewhat starved of operational and data analysis funding.

NuSTAR will hopefully go forward to launch, but I hear GEMS may be in trouble.

That does not leave much.
Maybe some theory will survive? Under the hypothesis that it is so small it will squirt through...

This, of course, is without contemplating the insanities happening in Space Explorations and Space Operations...

One interesting twist on all this: the NASA funding from the House explicitly puts JPSS forward - the polar weather satellites GSFC is doing for NOAA.
That is a BIG project, and important to GSFC as a center.
The implicit quid pro quo here may be done - GSFC gets JPSS funded, they are urgent and important, even if over budget and a managerial mess, and return, JWST gets taken as a budget cutting trophy.

We'll see what happens.

More at Sarah Kendrew's One Small Step
e-Astronomer also
AURA is not amused

AAS is going to have something to say later today, or so they say on facebook.

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Oh wow. They're cutting Webb?

Idiots. Fools. I don't think there is a word in the english language that comes close in terms of describing the stupidity this shows to the scientific community at large and the astro community specifically.

*shakes head and mutters*

Ermm, if you were aware of the gross negligence and waste that exists on JWST because of utterly incompetent managers at both Goddard and the contractor, you might just bite your lip LukeL. These people have beaten this mission to death, and caused the death of many other science missions. I'sorties saddened to say the House is actually right on putting JWST on ice.

I know the JWST was over budget and likely to continue to overrun, but at least the JWST has a mission with real purpose and science.

If we must cut something, please cut the Senate Space Launch System. There is no mission planned for the next 15 years that requires this hugely expensive heavy lift vehicle. Please cut the fatty pork, not the meat.

It seems to me that no one (including the AAS, AURA, and other passionate supporters) currently has enough information about JWST's ultimate cost and schedule to responsibly advocate either for cancellation or continued funding of the project. WE SIMPLY DO NOT YET KNOW THE COST OR LAUNCH DATE, and thus I feel I cannot form a rational opinion about what should be done.

I'd like to see the blind, unconditional advocates of JWST switch their message from "save JWST" to "put it on ice" until the project finally produces a credible, independently reviewed budget and schedule with the normal reserves mandated by NASA policy.

I just can't respect expressions of unconditional support for JWST right now. What if the ongoing review finds it will cost $15 billion, and launch in 2022? There IS a point where the community (even the oft-quoted Decadal Survey Committee) would conclude that the resources are better spent elsewhere. We need information to proceed rationally.