James Webb Space Telescope Threatens Planetary Science


image PLANETARY EXPLORATION NEWSLETTER - SPECIAL EDITION
Volume 5, Number 40 (September 8, 2011)

PEN Website: http://planetarynews.org
Editor: Susan Benecchi
Co-Editors: Melissa Lane, Mark Sykes
Email: pen_editor at psi.edu

EDITORIAL: JWST THREATENS PLANETARY SCIENCE

The recently released NRC Planetary Decadal Survey ("Visions and Voyages"), with input from the planetary community, detailed specific priorities for the next decade of solar system exploration. This carefully laid out plan is under threat from cost overruns by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope. The NRC Planetary Decadal Survey did not cite JWST as a priority for planetary science.

JWST has, however, been a priority in the NRC Astrophysics Decadal Surveys. When JWST was ranked as the top major initiative for NASA astrophysics in the 2001 NRC Astronomy Decadal Survey, it was estimated to cost $1B and launch by 2011. NASA has now spent $3.5B on JWST and it is now projected to cost a minimum of $8.7B for a launch no earlier than late 2018. As a result, JWST's cost increases have outstripped the resources of the NASA Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division, and NASA leadership has now declared JWST an "agency priority." Resources of other NASA programs, including the Agency's Planetary Sciences Division within the Science Mission Directorate, are now threatened to cover current and future JWST cost overruns.

Citing these overruns, the House zeroed out JWST from NASA's 2012 budget.

We believe it is time to have an open debate on JWST and its value across all targeted communities, from planetary, Earth science, and heliophysics to human spaceflight. Congress needs to be informed about the impact of the choices facing it.

We individually and together reject the premise that JWST must be restored at all costs. We further stand by the following positions:

(1) There are important national priorities in space beyond the goals of JWST that as a country we cannot afford to sacrifice.

(2) If Congress believes JWST is so important that it must be restored,then Congress should commit to adding funds to the NASA budget sufficient to cover JWST's expenses from here forward, recognizing that it may well cost more than $8.7B.

(3) Without additional funds to NASA, JWST should not be restored unless and until an open science community assessment is made of the value of what will be gained and what will be lost across the entire NASA science portfolio.

(4) If Congress cancels JWST, it is important to preserve the NASA astrophysics budget and mandate the formulation of a plan to retain US astrophysics leadership.

Signed,

Mark V. Sykes
CEO, Planetary Science Institute
Former Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society

Michael F. A'Hearn
Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
Former Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society
Principal Investigator, NASA Deep Impact Mission
Principal Investigator, NASA EPOXI Mission

Raymond E. Arvidson
James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor,
Washington University
Former Chair, Planetary Geology Division
of the Geological Society of America
Former President, Planetary Section of the American Geophysical Union

Jayne C. Aubele
Museum Adult Programs Educator/Geologist,
New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
Former Chair, Planetary Geology Division
of the Geological Society of America

Reta Beebe
College Professor, New Mexico State University
Former Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society

Larry S. Crumpler
Research Curator, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
Former Chair, Planetary Geology Division
of the Geological Society of America

Bruce Hapke
Professor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh
Former Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society

Stephen Mackwell
Director, Lunar and Planetary Institute

Thomas B. McCord
Director, Bear Fight Institute
Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii
Former Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society
Former President, Planetary Section of the American Geophysical Union

Harry Y. (Hap) McSween
Chancellor's Professor, University of Tennessee
Former Chair, Planetary Geology Division
of the Geological Society of America
Former President, Meteoritical Society

Tom Pierson
CEO, SETI Institute

S. Alan Stern
Former Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate
Former Vice-Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society

Faith Vilas
Project Scientist, Atsa Suborbital Observatory
Former Director, MMT Observatory
Former Chair, Division for Planetary Sciences
of the American Astronomical Society

David A. Williams
Faculty Research Associate, Arizona State University
Chair, Planetary Geology Division
of the Geological Society of America

Note: You are invited to send comments to discussion@psi.edu and indicate whether you support this position and an open discussion of JWST and its value/cost to planetary science.

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