Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rescuing the James Webb Space Telescope

John Wallace
Senior Editor
Laser Focus World

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a cosmological probe every bit as revolutionary as the Hubble Space Telescope was (after its fix) -- and the JWST is in trouble. The U.S. House of Representatives has canceled the JWST program because it is over budget; this is just a first move, and as of now Congress could still decide to reinstate the program.

Without getting into details (it's been highly publicized already, so a quick Web search will provide a flood of info), the JWST is certainly over budget and behind schedule. On the other hand, most of the telescope's components have already been built and are already under test.

If completed and launched, the JWST will not only be capable of observing the universe in its early phase before the formation of the first stars; it will also have the light-collecting ability and spectral capabilities to find liquid water on exoplanets. It will be the leading-edge cosmology platform for at least the next decade after launch. It has already been the proving ground for new optical-fabrication technology, and will showcase the best in IR imaging and spectroscopy. Finally, it will be an inspiration to students in a country (the U.S.) that is beginning to lose its edge in secondary science education.

And the JWST is mostly built.

Northrop Grumman has an excellent site on the JWST ( that also includes a call to action. I suggest you pay the site a visit, or contact your elected officials directly.

Six JWST mirror segments
complete final test (NASA)

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