What would NASA do with the equipment that's already been made if congress cuts the program?

04 September 2011

Question

What would NASA do with the equipment that's already been made if congress cuts the programme? Because obviously, they're looking to make savings and there is a danger that the James Webb might not progress on the grounds there's no money available.

Answer

It is certainly one of the worries. The greatest tragedy here is that the mirrors, which are the most complicated part of telescope, are in fact completed. So we now have, at the space flight centre here, all 18 mirrors, each one as precise as the Hubble Space Telescope, in boxes waiting to actually be assembled into a telescope. The UK, for example, is producing something called the mid-infrared imager and it actually will be arriving here soon. So we will have these instruments also ready to go. It's precisely because we have got so far with this that there's lots of rethinking going on about whether it was the right decision taken by the House - in the US system, there's the House and the Senate that decide on funding. The House first voted to actually not fund the James Webb Telescope. The Senate has yet to speak on the issue and I think people are beginning to scratch their heads and think, "Hold on a minute. We've got all this hardware. Is this the right moment to actually stop the funding?"

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