Space continues to be the final frontier; a seemingly infinite number of galaxies, stars and planets are waiting to be discovered and explored. This vast potential captured James Webb’s imagination as a child, and he has followed this passion to his current pursuits as an astronomer and astrophysicist at FIU.
At TEDxFIU 2012, Webb argued that we were at a crossroads in space exploration and education, and that the downward trend in funding and the shutdown of NASA’s space shuttle program were a giant step backward.
Two years on, the outlook remains bleak, according to Webb. NASA’s 2015 budget remains essentially flat at $17.5 billion, as does the budget of the National Science Foundation. Private industry alternatives to government-funded space exploration are not an adequate substitute, according to Webb.
“The strategy of letting private business run the space race is inherently flawed and, I feel, an untenable situation,” he says. “This is something NASA or even a World Space Agency should be doing, not Virgin or Boeing!”
Webb isn’t letting the bad news discourage him. Since his TEDxFIU talk, he has seen his vision for an observatory at FIU come to life with the construction of the Stocker AstroScience Center. The center’s 24” telescope arrives next week. His FIU-famous Star Parties still happen regularly; the next one is December 5. And Webb’s latest album of astronomy music is just out — look for it at the FIU bookstore soon.