Funding For New Space Telescope In Danger

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WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — U.S. politicians say they may pull the funding plug on the James Webb Space Telescope, the intended successor to the Hubble telescope with 100 times the power.

As part of the overall U.S. budget debate, a House appropriations committee vote this month proposed killing the telescope, whose $6.8 billion cost is already up 50 percent over a 2005 estimate and could go even higher, USA Today reported Friday.

A committee report said the step “will ultimately benefit NASA by setting a cost discipline example for other projects.”

A report last year headed by John Casani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the telescope’s cost had increased about $1.5 billion since 2008.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., head of the House science spending committee, said he supports the telescope’s mission but only if NASA commits to making fundamental changes in its budget process.

The budget-busting Webb telescope threatened NASA’s other science missions, he said.

Supporters of the telescope have mobilized to try and save it.

“It will be a game-changer, revolutionary,” University of Chicago astrophysicist Michael Turner said.

“Losing the telescope would be a huge blow to U.S. science and prestige,” Turner said. “We would basically be telling the world we can’t do great things anymore.”

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