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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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  • The scary thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chemicaldave (1776600) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:07AM (#34207306)
    is that this will be in an orbit we can't get to if there have to be repairs, much like the Hubble desperately needed. They better get it right the first time.
  • Re:The scary thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:10AM (#34207344)
    They built adaptive optics in this time, though there is a chance either the secondary mirror or the heat shield will fail to deploy (the heat shield is a significant risk as there is no vacuum chamber on earth large enough to fully test it).
  • Re:The scary thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chemicaldave (1776600) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:14AM (#34207380)
    I forgot to mention that even if it goes to plan, we still can't upgrade parts either. That's one reason Hubble has had such a long life.
  • Re:The scary thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:17AM (#34207428) Journal

    the heat shield is a significant risk as there is no vacuum chamber on earth large enough to fully test it.

    There was an analogous problem on Hubble (not wanting to do an end-to-end test due to the facilities required) which is one of the reasons the flawed mirror was not caught before deployment.

    Sure, vacuum chambers are expensive to build. Is it worth significantly hampering a $6B project to avoid? There was a cartoon that someone taped to the wall where I worked at GSFC "back in the day" that showed a mouse in a lab coat poking a mouse trap. The caption was "One test is worth a thousand expert opinions."

  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:23AM (#34207520) Journal

    Wall street makes more money from war than from exploration and space science.

  • by M1FCJ (586251) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:31AM (#34207624) Homepage

    For that cost you can build many smaller satellites and many many more land-based observatories. It's not really worth the price NASA asks for.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:39AM (#34207730)

    That's an unfortunate consequence of the lack of a "Perfect example for the sad state of humanity"-mod option.

    May I in turn suggest ending your overseas military conflicts, use the cash to repair your ruined infrastructure, thereby raising employment rates and getting the local economies going? Then you can start to worry about your exports and fix your immigration system. Oh, and fuck that "leader of the free world" thing. I am part of the free world, and I feel no desire whatsoever to have any leader at all, let alone the US.

    Compared to the money you guys are pissing into the wind for no return whatsoever, this telescope is a drop in the bucket. And if you have any interest at all to get your exports going, developing your local high-tech talent with projects like this might be a first step...

  • My God... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blair1q (305137) on Friday November 12, 2010 @12:13PM (#34208144) Journal's full of stars!

    and a lot of other stuff we've never seen before because we're missing out on everything beyond a certain limit of red-shift and absolute magnitude

    But, at some point, we will be looking at the edge of the universe. If it's emitting electromagnetic radiation. Then you can complain.

  • Re:The scary thing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:11PM (#34208926)

    Also find a vacuum chamber with no gravity. The heat shield is "paper thin" and quite large. It doesn't take very well to gravity.

    And finally, even if you could test it, how will you account for the 2g+ bumpy ride to orbit?? It can shake stuff lose too. I guess Hubble and Shuttle were not that bad of a solution ;)

  • News for nerds? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beelzebud (1361137) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:51PM (#34209392)
    For a place that bills itself as "news for nerds" there certainly is a very large group here who seem to not be interested in any type of scientific research, are seem more interesting in whining about paying taxes.

    A lot of us didn't want to invade Iraq, but our tax dollars were used any way. Don't want us to pay for a space telescope? Tough shit!

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!