NASA's next big space telescope faces termination

House Appropriations Committee budget bill would terminate $6.5 billion James Webb Space Telescope

nasa james webb
The political wrangling over NASA's future direction won't get any prettier in the coming weeks as congress will debate the future of the agency and whether or not to kill of one its most ambitious projects: The James Webb Space Telescope.

The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Commerce and Justice, as well as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation. The bill begins subcommittee debate this week.

More on space: Gigantic changes keep space technology hot   

NASA's part in that bill sits at $16.8 billion, $1.6 billion below last year's level and $1.9 billion below the President's request. No matter what happens with this version of the bill though it would have to jive with the Senate's eventually but the line now is drawn.

According to the committee's statement, this funding includes:

- $3.65 billion for Space Exploration which is $152 million below last year. This includes funding above the request for NASA to meet Congressionally mandated program deadlines for the newly authorized crew vehicle and launch system.

- $4.1 billion for Space Operations which is $1.4 billion below last year's level. The legislation will continue the closeout of the Space Shuttle program for a savings of $1 billion.

- $4.5 billion for NASA Science programs, which is $431 million below last year's level. The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management, the committee stated.

The $6.5 billion Webb telescope is the successor to the successful Hubble.  According to NASA the Webb telescope would be the most sensitive infrared space telescope ever built. It is designed to see the farthest galaxies in the universe and the light of the first stars; study young planetary systems; and look for conditions suitable for life on planets around other stars.  The telescope features a large mirror, a little over 21-feet in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. The system would reside in an orbit about 1 million miles from the Earth.

The project has been plagued by design issues and funding problems and its future seems more threatened now than ever before.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

Layer 8 Extra

Check out these other hot stories:

Billion-pixel camera set to snap Milky Way shots

US intelligence agency wants technology to predict the future from public events

Sex doll-based robot helps dentists learn realistic, sensitive healing

Apathy, law enforcement complications keep cybercrime hopping

Apathy, law enforcement complications keep cybercrime hopping

NASA: Commercial space projects heat up

IBM tabs top future networked healthcare devices

NASA:30 Twitter followers to "fly" space shuttle

SETI sets up $200,000 challenge to get insolvent telescopes back on line

Hypersonic airliner promises zippy, spacecraft-like flight

Federal climate change action? Not through this maze

Air Force: Unmanned aircraft hit 1 million combat hours

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)