NASA head says Webb telescope plan in place

By Alex Dominguez

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 3:55 p.m. MDT

A full-size replica of the James Webb space telescope is on display Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, in front of the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. NASA's administrator says the over budget and behind schedule James Webb space telescope now has a plan in place for launch in 2018.

Alex Dominguez, Associated Press

BALTIMORE — The James Webb space telescope program, over budget and behind schedule, has a plan in place for a 2018 launch that doesn't draw too heavily on resources for other projects, NASA's administrator said Friday.

"I'm spreading the costs across the agency so that no organization suffers from it and that we are able to continue with a lot of other projects and programs that we have," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. said as a full-size replica of the telescope went on display in Baltimore's touristy Inner Harbor.

The retired Marine Corps major general said the space agency did what he called a re-plan after he was put in charge two years ago.

"So now, we feel we have a funding and schedule plan in place. It's been through all of the wickets of review in the White House and everywhere," Bolden said.

The telescope is years behind schedule and its budget has grown from $3.5 billion at one point to a current estimate of $8.7 billion. A House subcommittee voted earlier this year to end funding for the telescope, but a Senate panel has since voted to fund the program at a level the space agency thinks will take the telescope into orbit in 2018, Bolden said.

The administrator detailed some steps taken to right the program since he took over. In addition to taking it away from an astrophysics division of the space agency, Bolden said management changes were also made to help identify problems as they arise. Bolden also said he tried to be fair in distributing the agency's resources. He said he didn't want to reward the telescope program by killing some other program that is doing well.

"I think we've reached the right balance in the funds that we found," Bolden said.

The telescope is expected to replace the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, but is heading much farther out into space. The Webb is designed to make its observations from a point about a million miles from Earth, where it will use its tennis-court sized heat shields to block heat from the sun and Earth and observe infrared wavelengths. That will allow it to look farther back in time and find galaxies that formed in the early universe.

While the project has generated opposition in Congress, Bolden noted the agency has been an engine for economic growth and job creation "and the Webb telescope is just the latest example."

The telescope is named after NASA's second administrator, James E. Webb.

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Online:

NASA Webb replica site — http://www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/webb-balto.html

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