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NASA Space The Almighty Buck Science

James Webb Space Telescope Cost Overruns Adding Up 153

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-worth-it dept.
digitaldc writes "The scale of the delay and cost overrun blighting NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been laid bare by a panel called in to review the project. The group believes the final budget for Hubble's successor is likely to climb to at least $6.5bn, for a launch that is possible in September 2015. But even this assessment is optimistic (PDF), say the panel members. Estimates for JWST's total cost to build, launch and operate have steadily increased over the years from $3.5bn to $5bn. Along with the cost growth, the schedule has also eroded. The most recent projected launch of 2014 has looked under pressure for some time. Charles Bolden has ordered a reorganization of the project and has changed the management at its top. Whereas Hubble sees the Universe mostly in visible light, JWST will observe the cosmos at longer wavelengths, in the infrared. It will see deeper into space and further back in time, to the very first population of stars."
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James Webb Space Telescope Cost Overruns Adding Up

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  • Re:But but but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:08PM (#34207314)
    Yes we do. A lot more pictures. This thing is a bargain when compared with the things we'll find out about the universe.
  • by afidel (530433) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:09PM (#34207326)
    It's still going to cost significantly less than a month in Iraq or Afghanistan....
  • by jstrauser (711857) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:09PM (#34207338)
    I don't care if it costs 6.5 trillion. The amount of knowledge gained from peering that far back is invaluable.
  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:15PM (#34207402) Journal

    They just underestimated the original bid to get the contract. That's just the way things work.. SNAFU

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@yahoo. c o m> on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:17PM (#34207426) Homepage Journal

    This is why I would love to see the government sue people who grossly underbid contracts.

  • by windcask (1795642) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:20PM (#34207468) Homepage Journal
    I think sating our curiosity about the beginnings of the universe should take a back seat to our 13 trillion dollar deficit, our 9.6% unemployment rate, our sluggish exports market, our extended overseas military conflicts, our wide-open borders, and our faltering standing as the leader of the free world...but what do I know?
  • by afidel (530433) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:32PM (#34207640)
    Yeah, because stopping investment in science is SO going to make use the leader of the world economy for the next century....
  • by Dolphinzilla (199489) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:34PM (#34207668) Journal

    what makes you think this wont support the war in Afghanistan ? we can finally find the tallest man in Pakistan - from orbit - at night

  • by Xoltri (1052470) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:54PM (#34207920)
    Divide the 6.5 billion amongst all of the problems you list and you'll see how insignificant it is. That's like saying you should not buy that big screen TV because there are people in the world that are starving to death right now. Sure, it may be true that there are people starving to death, but not buying that big screen tv is not going to save them. It is a bigger issue.
  • I think sating our curiosity about the beginnings of the universe should take a back seat to our 13 trillion dollar deficit,

    There is a difference between deficit and debt. In any event, while the cost (and cost overrun) on the JWST is a substantial amount of money, it is very small relative to the total debt or annual deficit. The complete NASA budget is less than $20 billion per year; even if the government chooses to destoy its entire space program it's a useless place to try to resolve the deficit. If you want to free up a couple of billion dollars in construction costs, cancel a Virginia-class attack submarine, or pare back the order for F-35 fighter jets (15 jets - out of a contracted 2443 - would save two billion dollars).

    our 9.6% unemployment rate,

    How does a high-tech project, employing highly-trained workers to the full extent of their abilities (and not incidentally keeping them in the United States, rather than seeing them move to other jurisdictions) hurt employment?

    our sluggish exports market,

    How does a space telescope hurt U.S. exports?

    our extended overseas military conflicts,

    How does building a space telescope affect overseas military operations?

    our wide-open borders,

    Yep, those damn Canadians keep getting in. Fortunately, the JWST is an infrared instrument, so in its off-hours it can be used to scan for illegal immigrants crossing the border under cover of darkness.

    and our faltering standing as the leader of the free world...

    How is shutting down prestigious research projects going to improve the United States' global reputation? Let's let China do the cutting-edge space research from now on -- that ought to bolster our standing on the global stage. (What the hell does "leader of the free world" mean, anyway? I really hope it's more "we're a shining example" and less "we're in charge because we're scariest".)

    but what do I know?

    Not nearly as much as you'd like to think, apparently. The U.S. federal civil service has close to two million employees -- not counting the armed forces or the post office. Why is it that people assume that an organization of that scale is only capable of doing one thing at a time, and that there cannot be multiple concurrent projects directed at multiple priorities?

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten