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Misleading statement on JWST budget from Alan Stern

Correcting a recent statement concerning the cost of JWST. Read the full statement.

Alan Stern stated recently that: "JWST's cost is increasing ANOTHER $100M since last month--for an annualized rate of >$1B. Who says the costs & damage are known?"
It is incorrect to annualize this $0.1B change. I would have expected the writer to know better. He was NASA Associate Administrator for Science for 11 months in 2007 and 2008 until his (precipitous) departure early in 2008. Being Principal Investigator of a major planetary mission that also overran should have helped him understand such issues. But since he appears not to understand, nor to have done his homework, here are the facts:
The cost-to-launch in 2018 for JWST is unchanged at $8B, and consistent with the Senate-imposed cost cap of $8B. The $0.1B increase (or just ~1%) in total life-cycle cost from the "about $8.7B" reported in August 2011 to $8.8B is the outcome of a recent effort to properly define the operations and science support budget after launch in late 2018.
For background: Getting a new cost-to-launch for JWST from NASA after the Independent Comprehensive Review Panel report in late 2010 was clearly the most important step needed for Congress, OMB, OSTP, and others. Establishing the schedule and cost-to-launch for JWST was thus, very appropriately, given priority this year by NASA. What was not able to be updated in the work done in the first half of this year on the new JWST plan, and the resulting revised cost-to-launch, was the operations budget for the new launch date.
The current (and correct) approach for missions is to report a total life-cycle cost that includes operations. To meet this objective the life-cycle cost of "about $8.7B" approved for release by OMB in August included an old, incomplete estimate of the cost of operations and science support. This old operations estimate was from the 2008 JWST Confirmation review, inflated for the current later launch date. The old operations and science support estimate needed to be updated, but it was not appropriate to wait any longer before responding to the repeated Congressional and public requests for the revised cost of JWST. Unfortunately, the life-cycle cost information was not allowed to be accompanied by any public explanation of the components of the "about $8.7B" number.
The more rigorous update of the cost of the operations and science support budget was concluded recently. This was based on the new launch date and on improved understanding since 2008 of the JWST Observatory system and its characteristics. The more rigorous estimate of the operations and science support budget resulted in an ~1% increase in the life-cycle cost. An increase was expected, and was implicitly noted in the life-cycle cost released in August by saying "about $8.7B".
The resulting $0.1B increase from the more rigorous assessment of the operations and science support cost is for the whole operations period and is ONLY for the cost of operations in 2019 and beyond, and it is clearly NOT appropriate to annualize it.
The Planetary Science Division Director, Jim Green, at NASA recently emphasized that planetary scientists should stop sniping at JWST and focus on the Planetary Decadal program and the nearly $1B that planetary lost in the President's budget over the next 5 years, since JWST did not have anything to do with that loss. The writer appears not to have got this message and, unfortunately, instead is still resorting to disingenuous statements that will damage the overall science program at NASA.
Garth Illingworth University of California, Santa Cruz
The writer was a member of the JWST Independent Comprehensive Review Panel and was Chair from 2005 to 2008 of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee that reports to Congress, OSTP, NASA, NSF and DOE.

Letter from Representative Israel re JWST

Statement by US Representative Steven Israel (NY).

Briefing re JWST to NASA Advisory Science Committee

Rick Howard's JWST Briefing to NASA Advisory Council Science Committee.

ExoPlanet Science Group on JWST

A letter by the Executive Committee of the NASA Exoplanet Analysis Group expressing their unanimous support for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Recent summary from NASA of the JWST Replan

A presentation by Rick Howard, NASA JWST Program Director, as made available to Congress recently and made public in a presentation to the JWST Science Working Group September 20...

A Memo on JWST 

by  Garth Illingworth

This memo set consists of three parts: (1) discusses the background and the consequences of terminating JWST; (2) summarizes the impacts of terminating JWST in 10 "talking points"; and (3) highlights 10 myths regarding JWST that occur in conversation and print.

Read the full Memo or Download

JWST Webinar 

DATE: September 21, 2011


During the webinar, a panel of scientists and program directors will describe the hardware and current programmatic status of the observatory and the science enabled by JWST. Brief presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session, during which webinar attendees may submit questions to the panelists.

Petitions for Astronomers and Scientist 

Petition to President's Science Advisor (For US Astronomers and Scientists)

Petition to President's Science Advisor (For European Astronomers and Scientists)


NASA Administrator Bolden Statement On The Webb Telescope

NASA's Detailed Response to the James Webb Space Telescope Independent Comprehensive Review Panel Report

Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP) Letter

Final Report to NASA Administrator and Senator Mikulski

AAS Informational Email

New Horizons for High Redshifts - A statement regarding the future of the James Webb Space Telescope

FYI #90: July 15, 2011 - FY 2012 House Funding Bill: NASA

Memo to Alan Boss, Chair, NAC Astrophysics Subcommittee re JWST

Impacts of JWST termination

Statement by Senator Mikulski

JSTAC letter to President's Science Advisor

A presentation by Rick Howard, the JWST Program Director, titled "James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Program Status and Replan" presented to the Astrophysics Subcommittee on July 13, 2011.

JWST in the News 

Senate Appropriators Rue Cuts to NASA Technology, Constrain Availability of Commercial Crew Funds - Space Policy Online

An updated edition of our fact sheet on NASA's FY2012 budget request is now available reflecting the actions taken by the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday. Read more or download fact sheet pdf.

The end of astronomy's golden age? - Physics World

A House of Representatives spending bill plans to scrap the James Webb Space Telescope. Garth Illingworth looks to a gloomy future for astronomy and astrophysics if that happens. Registration required. Get a PDF copy here. Read More...

The Senate has "saved" JWST? Hang on a sec, folks... - Discover Magazine

Yesterday, the Senate subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science — the group that initially sets the budget for NASA, among other agencies — issued a press release. Read More...

The watershed moment for JWST - Discover Magazine

The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to Hubble, may be reaching the most critical juncture in its life: a vote by a U. S. Senate subcommittee on whether to fund it or not. Read More...

Space science caught in a Webb - The Space Review

Few would deny that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, or frequently just called Webb), if and when it is ultimately launched, would make major discoveries in astronomy. Read More...

NASA: James Webb Space Telescope to Now Cost $8.7 Billion -

NASA has confirmed a new cost estimate for its James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that a key congressional appropriator and critic cited in July in proposing to terminate the flagship-class astronomy mission. Read More...

James Webb Space Telescope Nearing Completion - Universe Today

The James Webb Space Telescope or JWST has long been touted as the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope. Read More...

Hubble Telescope Successor Could Get a Financial Lifeline - Scientific American

The budget-busting James Webb Space Telescope could get extra cash from human spaceflight funds. Read More...

NASA budget is seeing stars - The Washington Post

THE LAST SHUTTLE has landed. Soon, without space shuttles to perform repairs, the Hubble Space Telescope will break down and plummet into the ocean. Read More...

Major Scientific Programs Could be Slashed or Eliminated Under Debt-Reduction Deal - APS

The American Physical Society, the nation’s leading organization of physicists, is deeply concerned that proposals to drastically reduce the nation’s debt would do serious harm to major scientific projects. Read More...

SPIE objects to House subcommittee decision to end James Webb Space Telescope; urges full funding - SPIE

Ending the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project would waste billions of taxpayer dollars that have already been invested, undermine American leadership and innovation in space technology, and eliminate much-needed jobs and economic growth, SPIE asserts in a letter today to the U.S. House of Representatives. Read More...

AAS Statement on the James Webb Space Telescope - American Astronomical Society

The proposal released on July 6 by the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies to terminate the James Webb Space Telescope would waste more taxpayer dollars than it saves while simultaneously undercutting the critical effort to utilize American engineering and ingenuity to expand human knowledge. Such a proposal threatens American leadership in the fields of astrophysics and advanced space technology while likely eliminating hundreds, if not thousands, of high-tech jobs. Additionally, this proposal comes before the completion of a revised construction plan and budget for a launch of JWST by 2018. The United States position as the leader in astronomy, space science, and spaceflight is directly threatened by this proposal. Read More...

AURA Reaction to Proposed Cancellation of JWST - Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

Today, AURA strongly objected to the proposal by the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee to terminate the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). JWST remains the world's foremost effort to push the boundaries of astronomy and astrophysics. Read More...

Why You Need to Help Save the James Webb Space Telescope - Wired

The latest U.S. House of Representatives appropriations bill seeks to cut funding for NASA by $1.6 billion, and in the process eliminate the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project. While it is undeniable that the project has had large cost overruns and is behind schedule, it is also very clear that the project will once complete be a tool of enormous worth to the scientific community — and, through them, to the general population — not just in the U.S. but in the entire world. Read More...

Way Above the Shuttle Flight - New York Times

As the space shuttle carries out its final mission to the space station orbiting 220 miles above the globe, NASA’s plan to conduct far more important research from a telescope that would be perched almost a million miles from Earth is in trouble. Read More...

American Space Research: An Also-Ran? - Huffington Post

You can hear the sounds of gnashing teeth and wringing hands. The Space Shuttle is loping towards the sunset, leaving the United States without its own means for putting people in orbit for the first time in a half-century. And the James Webb Space Telescope, the anointed successor to the Hubble, is apparently being marched to the gallows by a Congress unwilling to feed its growing maw for money. Read More...

Funding For James Webb Space Telescope In Jeopardy - NPR

This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill to kill funding for the James Webb Space Telescope in 2012. The telescope, which is the Hubble Telescope's replacement, is over-budget and behind schedule. In cutting the funding, the House committee said it was, in effect, punishing NASA and making an example out of it by saying, quote, "significant cost overruns are commonplace at NASA, and the committee believes that the underlying cause will never be fully addressed if the Congress does not establish clear consequences for failing to meet budget and schedule expectations," un-quote. Read More...