Status Report

Memo from AAS Solar Physics Division to AGU Heliophysics Section Regarding Webb Space Telescope Costs

By SpaceRef Editor
September 9, 2011
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Memo from AAS Solar Physics Division to AGU Heliophysics Section Regarding Webb Space Telescope Costs

Download the original memo

To: Roy Torbert (Chair, HPS)
Cc: Jim Klimchuk (SPD CAPP rep.)
Cc: SPD Committee

Dear Roy,

As you are well aware there is much concern about the recently announced budget over-run of the JWST, its projected final cost and schedule, the overall management of the program, and NASA’s plans for sharing the burden across the Agency. As SPD Chair I must share the specific concerns of the solar physics community, as articulated by the SPD committee, with the NASA Advisory Council, via your committee. I am sure this is a major issue for the HPS and that you are giving it your full consideration.

The SPD fully supports the science goals of the JWST and the priorities of our colleagues in astronomy and astrophysics; however, it is extremely worrisome that the proposed solution to the problem will further reduce the ability of the other divisions within the NASA Science Mission Directorate to accomplish their own nationally sanctioned scientific programs. In difficult economic times, these proposed new constraints come on top of a number of recent fairly stringent budget cuts to Heliophysics programs, which supports the majority of SPD science. NASA’s plans to make JWST an Agency-wide priority demonstrate an encouraging level of commitment to JWST at the highest levels. While this may reduce somewhat the burden on the other SMD Divisions, it will still have a significant negative impact on their budgets and, consequently, on their ability to meet the scientific priorities outlined in strategic visions. In the specific case of Heliophysics, this puts the implementation of the impending decadal survey deep in the hole, even before the recommendations have been released. In addition, other directorates, most crucially Human Explorations and Operations, will vigorously fight this decision, and so it is imperative that the solar and space physics community is not seen to be passively complicit.

One of our most important conduits to NASA leadership is through the NAC and the HPS provides the necessary voice for our community. I hope that the HPS can give due and timely consideration to this issue. If there is anything the SPD committee can do to help, please let us know.

FYI, the SPD position has been made known to the AAS, and while we accept the AAS support of JWST, we have urged the Society to ” balance the various concerns of each of its constituents and to work towards a solution that does not promote one division’s interests at the expense of another’s”.

Yours sincerely,


Dr. David Alexander
Chair, AAS Solar Physics Division
Professor, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
Rice University

SpaceRef staff editor.