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Space Science

NASA Names Next-Generation Space Telescope 24

Posted by timothy
from the orbiting-observatory-by-any-other-name dept.
Betelgeuse writes: "The Trek-obsessed people over at NASA have let go of the somewhat unwieldy name for the next major space-based optical observatory (formerly the 'Next Generation Space Telescope'). The space-based observatory will be known as the James Webb Space Telescope, named after James E. Webb, NASA's second administrator. While Webb is best known for leading Apollo and a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon, he also initiated a vigorous space science program, responsible for more than 75 launches during his tenure, including America's first interplanetary explorers. In addition, they've also announced the builder: TRW, Redondo Beach, CA. The press release is here."
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NASA Names Next-Generation Space Telescope

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  • Too Bad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pease1 (134187) <bbunge@ladyanDEG ... om minus painter> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @01:13PM (#4229543)
    Not that Webb wasn't a great man and great leader, but it would have been better to name this telescope after an astronomer - like Hubble - and not an adminstrator. The great orbiting observatories of the 80's and 90's were named after astronomers.

    This is a sad case of NASA tooting their own horn and trying to relive a happier past.

    • Not that he didn't do a good job, and administrators fill a real need, but science is what drives NASA. The adminstrators' job is to get the science done. If Webb wasn't there, somebody else would have done it. The same can't be said for, say, Einstein, Hawking, or Sagan.

      If there was anybody who deserves a nod for spurring NASA along, it's John Kennedy, and that's from someone who's not a big fan of his presidency. But to give credit where credit is due, NASA's greatest period would not have been if he hadn't been impetuous enough to promise a man on the moon by the end of the decade. And yes, I realize everythin else is already named for him, but that's just because he was killed.
      • I think your comment is pretty contradictory. In the first part, you argue that administrators merely perform their duties as specified in the job description, independent of their individual personality/skills/whatever. Yet, in the second part, you argue that JFK, the administrator-in-chief, should be the one to get things named after him. First of all, what's the difference between the two, except degree of power? I'll agree that, clearly, JFK substantially advanced NASA and our space efforts, but how do you know that Webb did not, in his somewhat-less-powerful capacity, move the space program along?

        I think the administrators are absolutely crucial in the success of any endeavor, and to be good they must do much more than simply fill a role that anyone else could have easily and homogenously filled. They must decide between vying projects, decide which research to follow; their guidance is absolutely critical and those that do their job well are invaluable. Just because they don't personally discover that E=MC^2 or somesuch, does not make their position any less important, or individually brilliant. It takes intelligence, foresight, and a great deal of skill to lead science forward.
        • Yet, in the second part, you argue that JFK, the administrator-in-chief, should be the one to get things named after him. First of all, what's the difference between the two, except degree of power? I'll agree that, clearly, JFK substantially advanced NASA and our space efforts, but how do you know that Webb did not, in his somewhat-less-powerful capacity, move the space program along?

          Your counter-argument is predicated on the fallicy that JFK was administrator-in-chief. He wasn't an administrator at all, with regard to NASA, he was only a leader. Leaders do the vision thing, administrators have to execute them, worrying about things like personnel issues, ordering widgets from factories, etc. Clearly the administrator's job is far more difficult - the leader is more of an 'idea rat', to borrow a phrase from Adams. If anybody fits the adminstrator-in-chief moniker, it's the congress-critters who fund and oversee NASA.

          My thesis is that we wouldn't have put a man on the moon without JFK, but we would have still gotten there if there was a different adminstrator at NASA. Please, prove me wrong by showing that Webb had this planned anyhow and that NASA would have failed to make it to the moon by Dec. 31 if Webb hadn't been at the helm.
          • I'm not sure why you try to tie everything to landing on the moon, as if the one person whose actions can be directly tied to this even should have everything named after them, while everyone else shoud just do their uncreative and uninspired administrative duties.

            Anyway, my original point didn't have anything to do with the moon, but rather that administrators are important, and while I certainly don't know the history and exploits of any of these individuals, I'd generally trust NASA's judgment and if they say this guy was a signficant positive factor in the space program, then I see no reason to argue with their choice.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The ability of the Webb to show infrared [astrobio.net] makes this a whole new view, including a direct image of extrasolar planets. Each wavelength is a universe unto itself--small objects become very prominent in the right band.
    • Part of the reason they must have picked him is that "Webb" is kindof a cool name.
  • ...will the 3rd space satelite be named Babbage, Chubb, or Tibbs? What's with the double-b anyway?
  • WTF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by masterkool (550633)
    IN the article, they say
    Unlike Hubble, space shuttle astronauts will not service the James Webb Space Telescope because it will be too far away.

    My question is, what happens when things go awry? Frankly, the idea of an unservicable telescope doesn't suit me well. I can only hope that Hubble's mishaps will improve the Webb telescope, but accidents and miscalculations are possible and probabe.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @02:24PM (#4230290) Homepage Journal
      (* ...My question is, what happens when things go awry? Frankly, the idea of an unservicable telescope doesn't suit me well. *)

      It seems space-telescope design is in a sticky delemma. If you put them in low earth orbit, they are shuttle-servicable. However, interference and changing shadows from Earth and Sun limit your observations. Thus, to get beyond what hubble-like scopes can do, they have to put them out far enough to be constantly in Earth's shadow at a distance.

      At that point servicing them via a manned mission gets really expensive, perhaps more than the scope.

      I am wondering why they can't launch remote-control repair robots. Sure, it takes longer than doing it by hand, but without life-support that is not really a concern AFAIK.

      Perhaps they can design it to be robot-service-able, such as special latches and screws designed for robotic utensiles.

      If NASA perfected such technology, then future probes could sometimes repair themselves. (Although distant probes would have to use only parts they already have aboard. The first duct-tape to leave the solar system :-)

      They could also use such technology to work on the ISS. What is so limiting about remote robots that they must send humans on expensive life-support to do it? A remote-controlled robot can do anything a human can, physical-wise, just at a slower pace. (I suppose some rare tasks may require performing some operation before certain opened-up internals get too much exposure or leakage or whatever.)

      Machines are usually cheaper to send than humans. Sure, astronauts may not like it, and it may be less "glory", but it has the potential to be far more economical.
    • I think NASA needs to be real carful with this. If by chance this new telescope has some unforseen problems it's gonna look really bad for NASA. They don't have the best reputation right now and I'd hate to see it get any worse.
    • Re:WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pease1 (134187)
      Low Earth Orbit really impacts day to day operations of a telescope like this. HST isn't nearly as effienct as some past space telescopes (IUE comes to mind) because of LEO issues (Earth blocking half the sky, the Van Allen belt wrecks electronics, temperature varition per orbit, etc).

      NGST is also mostly a infrared telescope, so it needs to be cold. It's colder at L2 and you don't have to deal with the hot/cold cycles of LEO.

      If built right, the ground engineers can work wonders using software fixes. Lots and lots and lots of history of NASA doing this over and over - from IUE to Voyager to Galileo.

      Finally, LEO suggests relying on the shuttle. HST did that - originally ST was supposed to be serviced a couple of times a year. Instead, it's going to get serviced four or five times in 10+ years. Given current shuttle problems, the lack of a replacement for the shuttle and the IIS work load, I wouldn't count on the shuttle for anything other than ISS work for the next 15 years.

      • The satellite that wouldn't die.

        It had a mission of two years. It lasted 19.
        And then it only stopped being used because it
        was turned off.

  • by macdaddy357 (582412) <macdaddy357@hotmail.com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @01:47PM (#4229882)
    That thing looks like a satellite dish on a surfboard. I almost expect to see Silver Surfer kicked back, watching the tube on it.
  • ..Milhouse would have been a better name.
  • ...are doomed to repeat it"
    Lets hope they have learned something from the book "The Hubble Wars: Astrophysics Meets Astropolitics in the Two-Billion-Dollar Struggle over the Hubble Space Telescope"
    by Eric J. Chaisson
  • Interferometry and adaptive optics, while not as preferable as space telescopes, still make justifying the cost of future space telescopes very difficult. I can see ground telescopes(with adaptive optics) having Hubble capabilities in 10-15 years.

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