Nobel Laureates, Mikulski Support Webb Funding

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s billions of dollars over budget and already considered dead on arrival by some on Capitol Hill, but supporters of the next generation space telescope say they aren’t giving up hope.

Alex DeMetrick reports for astronomers, the James Webb Telescope represents hope.

A full-size model of the James Webb Telescope is big, but so is its potential.

“It will see one hundred million times more than the Hubble could. That is stunning,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski.

But so is the cost. At nearly $9 billion, it is $2 billion over budget and targeted for killing in the U.S. House of Representatives. At a ribbon-cutting for a new Webb Telescope exhibit at Maryland’s Science Center, Mikulski vows a fight.

“That will put $500 million to put the James Webb Telescope into space,” she said.

Or at least keep it alive. Three Nobel Prize winners lent their support, including this year’s winner for physics. Dr. Adam Riess of Hopkins studied exploding stars with the Hubble Space Telescope, leading to the discovery of dark energy. With the Webb, he could see farther out and further back in time to the edges of the big bang.

“We hope to push back that last couple of billion years and learn about how the universe was operating in its earliest times,” Riess said.

The Webb Telescope won’t see in the colors we do. Instead, it will see in infrared light, revealing what is currently hidden.

“Into places the Hubble can’t see, like the dusty regions around where the planets are forming. So the James Webb will allow us to explore planets around nearby stars in details we’ve never seen,” said Dr. John Grunsfeld.

Provided it gets off earth.

Mikulski says she is confident the $500 million for the Webb Telescope will survive a vote in Congress next week.

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