Mikulski: Webb Telescope is good for science, good for the economy

As a recent Sun article ("Astronomers fret over Webb Telescope's future," Oct. 2) pointed out, I enthusiastically support the scientific mission of the James Webb Space Telescope.

As chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA, I'm also a fiscal watchdog who insists on value for every taxpayer dollar.


I was the first to call for an independent review that found the Webb telescope was technically sound but poorly managed and budgeted. I put management at NASA and at the contractor, Northrop Grumman, back on track.

Every project funded in my CJS bill is subject to rigorous requirements to identify and prevent cost overruns. The taxpayers won't accept boondoggles, and neither will I. That's why I established an early warning system on cost overruns, requiring agencies to notify the committee when project costs grow by more than 10 percent.


In Maryland, science is jobs. Ten new technologies have been developed to build Webb. Technologies like these lead to new products, new businesses and new jobs.

I was so proud when Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University's Space Telescope Science Institute shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. He used the Hubble Telescope to discover that the universe is expanding faster than we knew, and to prove the existence of dark energy. Professor Riess says scientists will need Webb to unlock more mysteries of the universe.

Discoveries like Professor Riess's, don't just open our minds, they also open opportunities for Marylanders to fill jobs of today and jobs of tomorrow and inspire our students to become stargazers, scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Barbara A. Mikulski, Baltimore

The writer, a Democrat, is Maryland's senior U.S. Senator.