The successor to the Hubble Telescope was delivered a major blow yesterday when the House Appropriations Committee released its spending plan for the coming fiscal year.
Not only did the committee slash NASA's budget by 1.6 billion but also proposed completely eliminating the James Webb Space Telescope project, meant to be the successor to the Hubble and considered to be the organization's biggest post-shuttle project.
Given this time of fiscal crisis, it is also important that Congress make tough decisions to cut programs where necessary to give priority to programs with broad national reach that have the most benefit to the American people, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.
The JWST was meant to be launched in 2014 and be approximately 100 times more powerful than the Hubble. The infrared telescope was designed by NASA to find the first galaxies ever created, potentially going as far back as the Big Bang.
But even before the potential deathblow by the Appropriations Committee, the telescope was behind schedule and was over budget, according to a survey conducted by an independent panel.
In April, NASA administrator Charles Bolden even admitted it could take until 2018 to launch the telescope due all the issues surrounding the project.
And while the potential pushback to 2018 certainly didn't induce euphoria out of project members, at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel. At this point with budget cuts being made across the table, the Webb Telescope now may never get into orbit.Until that happens, project members continue to work on the telescope and recently reported that more than 75% of the hardware is either in production or under testing.
But for astronomy lovers, it certainly isn't looking good for the James Webb Space Telescope.