JWST in The Guardian

I wrote a little something for the Guardian’s science blogs section on the JWST issues, here it is. I really appreciate all the retweets, facebook posts, emails and comments, and it’s been a nice experience to work with the Guardian Science team.

I’m excited that I’ve been able to help with making James Webb something of a talking point here in Europe as well, although I wish the circumstances were different.

Crunch Time for NASA? (With updates)

My twitter timeline is on fire with news that the House Appropriations Committee in the US just released its fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which will be voted on by the subcommittee tomorrow (July 7). This bill funds the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies. It also proposes to pull  the plug on JWST.

To the best of my knowledge, despite lots of rumours flying around, there never was any serious discussion over cancelling JWST. It was a scenario that had to be considered given the criticism over bad management and cost overruns – but as far as I was aware, this was an academic exercise. The Decadal Survey and every other similar roadmap placed the highest priority on JWST, and everyone, scientists as well as politicians, work under the assumption that JWST will fly.

So…. I don’t really have anything to say on this. I’m writing this to ask for information. Who knows more? Is this some political hard-balling hoop-jumpery?


An email from our European PI for MIRI gave little extra factual information over what’s being talked and written online, but urged us to support our US colleagues who will have to mobilize and fight to keep JWST alive. Also something about the “international collaboration” card ESA will “almost certainly” play if and when it’s called for. Meanwhile within the project it’s business as usual. Remember we’re in the middle of our final all-important flight test campaign at the Rutherford Labs In Didcot before we deliver MIRI to NASA later this year – lovely data are pouring in, lots to do.

Links (no longer a complete list but I’ll try to post anything official or particularly interesting or relevant):

Reaction from AURA

Official reaction from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) – very strong words of support for the mission

NY Times piece by Dennis Overbye with reactions from Matt Mountain, Tod Lauer

Nice by Jonathan Amos on the Beeb, words from NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

Blog post by Andy Lawrence

Brief blog post on Cosmic Variance

Skymania story

Space News story Nature news story

Science news story

Stein Sigurdsson


Well informed piece on Space Policy Online

Risa Wechsler on Cosmic Variance

Here’s a Save the James Webb Space Telescope facebook page you can like, and a twitter feed to follow.


From Didcot with Love

Sunday morning, 7 am – you’re probably fast asleep, maybe being pounced on by small children, or hungover, or perhaps you’re still out partying. Some of us are hard at work. I just started my third stint in the lab at the Rutherford Appleton Lab in Oxfordshire, where we’re testing the mid-infrared instrument MIRI for the James Webb Space Telescope. In case you’re not up to speed with your space missions or have never read my blog, let’s have a quick glossary.

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Last launch for Endeavour today

Endeavour, ready for launch. Credit: Ken Kremer


If you’ve never watched the Space Shuttle launch – either live or via NASA’s web feed - you’ve got just two chances left! Endeavour should launch later today, at 08:56 EDT. That’s 14:56 in Western Europe or 13:56 in the UK, just in time for your post-lunch coffee break. It’s the last ever launch for Endeavour, which makes space enthusiasts a little misty eyed. The 6 astronauts will be carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS.  AMS-02 is a cosmic ray detector that will collect and analyse energetic particles as they travel through space. From these data we can gain important new insights into the nature of the unseen stuff – dark matter – in the Universe. The experiment has a neat website with lots of info and video ,  as well as a twitter feed. There’s a nice 365Days podcast today about this cool particle physics experiment.

I’ll be watching!

NASA = tax dollars well spent

From the guys who brought you this fun video about JWST, here’s one telling you exactly why NASA rocks. As a European, I should add that ESA is also awesome! Here’s hoping a cute European geek (m/f) put its on video.