NASA Budget Bill Would Cancel Webb Telescope

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WASHINGTON — The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA unveiled a 2012 spending bill July 6 that would pull the plug on the budget-busting James Webb Space Telescope as part of a broader $1.6 billion cut that would roll back spending on the nation’s civil space program to pre-2008 levels.

The $16.8 billion top-line figure, released July 6 in draft legislation from the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, is nearly $2 billion less than U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget request for NASA.

The draft appropriations bill, which the subcommittee is scheduled to vote on July 7, also includes $1.95 billion for the Space Launch System — the heavy-lift rocket Congress ordered NASA to build for deep space exploration. The proposed 2012 funding level is $150 million more than the heavy lifter got for 2011, but some $700 million below the amount recommended in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which became law in October.

The bill also would provide $812 million for the Joint Polar Satellite System, or JPSS, being developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That amount would be an increase of $430 million from the amount appropriated for the program in 2011 but $258 million less than the agency requested. In total, NOAA would receive $4.49 billion next year, $103 million less than was appropriated for 2011 and $1 billion less than the administration’s request for 2012.