Post-Hubble telescope in budget hole

Post-Hubble telescope in budget hole

The next-generation space telescope slated to replace the renowned Hubble Space Telescope will likely cost billions more than planned and take much longer to complete due to errors in NASA's budgeting process, a review released Wednesday found, dpa reported.

The James Webb Space Telescope will cost at least 6.5 billion dollars, far more than the 5.1 billion dollars in the current budget, and the large overrun will mean the spacecraft will launch behind schedule, the review found.

The launch now set for 2014 would likely have to be pushed to September 2015 at the earliest, and that new target could only be met if NASA find an additional 200 million dollars in each of the next two years.

The telescope was envisioned as a replacement for the Hubble, which has produced the most distant images ever seen from space.

The Webb telescope is to give astronomers an even more complete look at the early universe. By being launched into space, both telescopes provide scientists with views unobscured by Earth's atmosphere.

An independent review of the Webb project found it is technically in good shape, but had been saddled with a "badly flawed" budget from the beginning, review panel chairman John Casani said.

The review pointed to failures in the NASA budgeting process and administration.

NASA said it would seek solutions to make sure the telescope can get off the ground, including reorganizing staff and having project managers report directly to the head of the agency. But it must come up with the extra money.

The agency is "taking this extremely seriously," associate administrator Chris Scolese said.

He acknowledged the difficulty of getting additional money from Congress in the midst of the weakened economy and soaring federal debt and said NASA would look both within the telescope programme and elsewhere to find more money if needed.

"We have to make every dollar count," Scolese said.

The telescope is a joint venture with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, but NASA stressed the cost problems all fall on the US side of the project.

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