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Mikulski boasts of saving the James Webb Space Telescope from the 'tea party'

James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Space Telescope

According to a February 3, 2014 press release published in the Digital Journal, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland met with the James Webb Space Telescope team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland to congratulate its members for the delivery of the telescope’s flight instruments and primary mirrors.

According to NASA Watch, however, Sen. Mikulski could not help herself from taking a few political shots, as illustrated in the following tweet.

“Mikulski on #JWST " I saved you from the Tea Party and how they wanted to make quick fixes" #NASA

Mikulski was apparently referring to the massive cost overruns that have plagued the project, ballooning its cost from an initial $1.6 billion to a current $8 billion. While there were the inevitable calls for cancellation of the project. A group calling itself “Tea Party in Space” attacked the space telescope project, criticized the management snafus it said caused the cost overruns, and called for its cancellation. The group’s relationship with the larger tea party movement, however, is questionable at best.

In the meantime it looks like that JWST is on course for a 2018 launch, at the greatly inflated cost.

“NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will be the most powerful space telescope ever built, capable of observing the most distant objects in the universe, providing images of the first galaxies formed, and observing unexplored planets around distant stars. A joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Webb is the successor to the agency's Hubble Space Telescope.

“All 18 of Webb's primary mirror segments are now housed in the Goddard clean room. Its 1.3 million cubic feet of dust-free space make the clean room one of the world's largest. All four of Webb's science instruments are within feet of the mirrors. The telescope's mirror and instruments will capture images of the universe and break down the spectra of incoming light to analyze the properties of galaxies, stars, and the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system.”

The space telescope is to contain a number of scientific instruments with which the image the universe.

“One of these instruments, the University of Arizona's Near-Infrared Camera, will be Webb's primary camera and will take images of the first stars and galaxies to form in the universe, along with many other astronomical targets.

“A second instrument, ESA's Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), will analyze the spectra and composition of as many as 100 objects at once. Airbus Defence and Space, formerly known as EADS/Astrium, built NIRSpec with components provided by Goddard.

“A third instrument, ESA's Mid-Infrared Instrument, has both a camera and a spectrograph, which sees light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum -- wavelengths longer than the human eye can see. This instrument was developed in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“A fourth instrument, CSA's Fine Guidance Sensor and Near-infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, will allow Webb to point precisely at its target in order to obtain high-quality images, and also will provide other valuable science modes for investigating both the distant universe and nearby exoplanets.”

Once it is launched and deployed, the JWST will be parked in a halo orbit at the Earth-Sun Lagrange L2 point, about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

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