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Letter from AURA to House Science Commitee Regarding JWST (24 Feb 2006)

Status Report From: Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
Posted: Monday, March 6, 2006

February 24, 2006

Honorable Sherwood L. Boehlert
Chairman, Committee on Science
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-6301

Dear Chairman Boehlert,

We, Members of the Board of Directors of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, wish to express our strong support for NASA's FY 2007 budget request for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). NASA's decision to recommend full funding for JWST reflects the high priority which the scientific community has established for this valuable program.

As members of the community, we also share the pain many have expressed over the general outlook for space science this year. Nonetheless, we feel that it is important to move ahead on the highest priority programs, which in space-astrophysics was JWST.

The National Academy of Science's Decadal Survey set JWST as the number one astronomical priority for this decade. That report, entitled Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, established the search for the first luminous objects in the universe and the study of the origin of stars and planets as the most compelling scientific problems of this decade. JWST will be the principal means by which these problems can be addressed. In addition, JWST will act as the successor to the enormously productive Hubble Space Telescope, now scheduled for servicing in 2008.

As you know, a major effort has been made to identify and manage the remaining risks in the program. NASA undertook a rigorous review and prioritized those scientific requirements that make JWST unique, and would reduce costs where possible. A specially appointed committee has recently reaffirmed the scientific value of JWST. In order to achieve these important scientific goals and to execute the mission with the greatest efficiency and cost effectiveness, it is important that adequate funding be provided in FY07 as requested by NASA to maintain the planned launch date.

In stating our support, we are mindful of the very difficult budgetary environment this year as NASA attempts to identify sufficient funding for the remaining Shuttle missions, the Shuttle replacement, and other goals of the proposed exploration program. We share the community's concern that a robust space science program must be sustained. Although adequate funding for the highest astronomy priority, JWST, is essential, other important areas of space science are under duress and require your attention, particularly the research and analysis programs that are the foundation for all future space science and exploration.

We appreciate your continued strong support for space science and look forward to working with you on these important matters.

Sincerely,

William Smith
President

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