A few days ago I wrote about the current scandal regarding NASA funding, which involved a bill being put forward requiring drastic cost-cutting measures for the space agency. If the bill were to be passed, NASA would be forced to slash their Space Technology program’s budget by 60%, focus on a heavy lift rocket that is not needed, and cancel the James Webb Telescope project. It was a depressing and angry piece, and prompted the following response from one Jim Caffey. Jim is Adjunct Professor of Astronomy, Physics and Space Science at Drury University, and has worked in political office so has some experience of how his country’s politics works. His message reads as follows:
You and others who have been worrying about the future of the James Webb Telescope do not understand how the US Congress works. What happened was a sub-committee in the house put forward a bill for funding. The subcommittee, maybe 10 people, voted it down narrowly. Now it goes to the full house, which is mostly Republican. They will likely vote it down, in support of their fellow party members, and kill funding. After that, however, it goes to the full Senate which is controlled by the Democrats. The Democrats will most likely vote against any bill the Republicans voted for, so it will probably not pass the senate and never go to Obama’s desk. Even if it did, he may still decide to use his Veto option and refuse to sign. So in my opinion, there is nothing to worry about.
Professor Jim Caffey
Reassuring stuff. Maybe the sky ain’t falling after all. Still, for both professional and amateur astronomers alike, this is a very emotional topic. We want our JWT! Any threat worries us, and we’re not afraid to get vocal in defense. I hope Jim is right, and am a great deal more optimistic than I was a few days ago. So now we wait and see how this political game pans out.