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NASA Tries To Save Hubble's Successor 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the try-hard dept.
Last month we discussed news that the James Webb Space Telescope, the planned successor to the HST, is on the budgetary chopping block. Now, an anonymous reader points out hopeful news from TPM's Idea Lab blog, which says NASA is trying to "spread the cost across the agency rather than just pulling from the $1 billion astrophysics division, with at least half of the funds coming from other areas of NASA's total $18 billion budget." According to Nature News, the decision resides with the White House's Office of Management and Budget, and support for the project depends in particular on Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
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NASA Tries To Save Hubble's Successor

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  • Because clearly it's a worthless expenditure that will have no clear and definitive results, but will instead just serve as massive government waste since if this were worth doing, a private telescope company would do it.

    Sarcasm mode off.

    • But with the tax money saved from these wasteful government programs, every American will be building rockets and satellites in their own back yard!

      Don't think of it as gutting science and social programs—think of it as the beginning of modern conservatism's great leap forward.

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @12:24AM (#37187476)

        But with the tax money saved from these wasteful government programs, every American will be building rockets and satellites in their own back yard!

        JWST is expected to cost $6,500,000,000 if it doesn't go even further over budget. That's more than twenty times as much as SpaceX say they spent to develop Falcon 9.

        So yes, if those billions were given to people building rockets then there'd be a heck of a lot of them.

        • Which would be really cool. That way we'd have lots more rockets with which to launch ... uhm ... what, exactly?

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            Which would be really cool. That way we'd have lots more rockets with which to launch ... uhm ... what, exactly?

            Whatever you want.

            If SpaceX can build Falcon 9 for about a tenth of what NASA estimated it to cost, they could probably knock out a couple of JWSTs for a billion or less.

            • by rumith (983060)
              And also discover a cure to cancer while they're on it. Because developing a rocket and building a telescope are so similar tasks after all, right? The fact that SpaceX has lots of talented propulsion engineers doesn't mean that these guys know the stuff that's required to construct something like JWST.
        • Definitely a case of apples and oranges - have Space X developed a space telescope? Does the JWST launch satellites? In both cases: no.

          Its like saying "instead of spending this $100,000 on building this house, instead I'm going to give it to these people to build delivery trucks." It doesn't solve the problem the original amount was spent to solve.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Keep your sarcasm mode off for a bit and answer this for me. What exactly are the benefits of it? Will it continue to cost money paid for either by NASA or the US government?

      And if it is so worth doing, then why hasn't private enterprise or even private charities funded it or part of it?

      • by Iron (III) Chloride (922186) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @12:51AM (#37187616)

        Because the JWST yields scientific knowledge that does not have immediate forseeable potential for profit, companies aren't going to be paying for it (other than possibly for PR purposes). As to private charities, it appears to me that most of philanthropies sponsoring science research are aimed towards promotion of causes like human health, renewable energy, etc. - daily, practical concerns. Nothing lofty like the JWST which will help us view the cosmos. Even basic biology research that might have a medical impact 50 years down the road won't get sponsored by charities, because there is way too much uncertainty involved.

        That's why government funding is necessary to sponsor basic science research - for those areas of science which are so far down the road in terms of turning a direct potential benefit to humanity, that can either radically change our view of the world and our way of living or simply be an interesting piece of trivia. Most of the time it's somewhere in between, in which even the interesting factoids will provide bits and pieces of the puzzle on our way to the Next Great Invention or Theory (TM).

      • by samweber (71605)

        And if it is so worth doing, then why hasn't private enterprise or even private charities funded it or part of it?

        Writing a statement like that on the internet which was, of course, started by the government, is like saying "Keep the government's hands off Medicare!". Breathtaking in its ignorance.

        Have you ever heard of Google? Well, it was started by a grant from the US Government's National Science Foundation.

        And take Akamai. It now delivers between 15 and 30% of all web traffic, and is used by all of the top 20 eCommerce sites. But when the founders tried to start it, no company or investor was interested. Inst

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          Writing a statement like that on the internet which was, of course, started by the government, is like saying "Keep the government's hands off Medicare!". Breathtaking in its ignorance.

          No, not at all. The internet have a strategic value to it that was important to military and the research/contractors working with it. BTW, Private businesses did fund parts of darpanet which became the internet. So let's not pretend its the same statement at all.

          Have you ever heard of Google? Well, it was started by a gra

      • OH GOD I am so tired of this argument - 'If it's worth doing then why isn't the private sector doing it, or funding it'. Private sector absolutely is beholden to the shareholders and the quarterly profit cycle. That's exactly why lots of tropical diseases that are imminently curable go unaddressed - oh, they don't have money? No new drugs for them.

        If you were honest with yourself, you could fire up Wikipedia, or open up a history book, and make a list of 'things the government did first that private indu

      • by cusco (717999)
        Because MBAs and other Libertardians are too stupid, lazy and greedy to do anything for the public good unless there's a buttload of money in it for their own personal enrichment, preferably stolen from the taxpayers. Half a century ago corporations felt a responsibility towards the communities in which they were located and built parks, libraries and medical facilities for the families of the people who worked for them. Today's MBA-diseased corporations won't even donate to the food banks that their impo
    • Is there a reason why this project can't wait for 5, 10, 20 or even 100 years? When there is actually money for it? Is the universe going to just go away? Are we going to miss something really, really important? Is JWST going to do anything at all to improve the average citizen's life or the economy? Or is it a luxury? And why not have it funded by philantropy? Telescopes used to operate that way and this is certainly doable by Gates/Buffet/Slim/etc.

  • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:27PM (#37186734)

    As Alan Stern pointed out on NASA Watch earlier today, this is a very dangerous move for the space science community.

    The science program has worked hard to put up firewalls to prevent the manned program from raiding them for funding when the going gets tough. By breaking that firewall in the opposite direction it opens the science directorate to future funding losses when things get bad on the manned side, (as they are sure to when the already obvious failures of SLS come calling).

    Between these two massive programs whose budgets keep growing I fear for the interesting smaller programs on boh the manned and unmanned sides...

    • Re:Danger! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PvtVoid (1252388) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:38PM (#37186804)

      As Alan Stern pointed out on NASA Watch earlier today, this is a very dangerous move for the space science community.

      The science program has worked hard to put up firewalls to prevent the manned program from raiding them for funding when the going gets tough. By breaking that firewall in the opposite direction it opens the science directorate to future funding losses when things get bad on the manned side.

      What manned program? The Russian one?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ares1/x, Ares V, SLS, factions in congress that wanted to add 2 to 5 shuttle flights while COTS got underway (at a cost of ~7 billion)....just because we're not flying anything doesn't mean we're not burning huge amounts of money pretending that we are.

      • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        ISS, CCDEV, COTS, SLS. There's more to human spaceflight than the space shuttle.

  • and he'll put funding for it as the first item on his presidential agenda. Word on the Hill is that the jobs plan Romney's announcing in September involves putting a sizable number of Americans to work building his spaceship so that he can scope out an appropriate location for his galactic rule; funding for a measly telescope seems like a natural fit, no?
    • by Teancum (67324)

      Romney just wants to be the president of the council of the twelve sealing a couple in the celestial room while orbiting above Kobol.

      Oh wait, Loren Green already beat him to that, didn't he?

  • This fact alone steams me up to no end, where this meme needs to be killed for once and for all. The Hubble Space Telescope is a fine instrument, but the James Webb Telescope is not being designed to do the same mission and is not a replacement for the Hubble. It is flat out misleading for those in the NASA space exploration directorates to keep repeating this lie.

    There may be a good reason to have the James Web Telescope too, but defend it for its own mission and don't be riding the coattails of Hubble e

    • by apparently (756613) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:44PM (#37186848)

      Repeat after me..... JWSB != Hubble successor

      I hate to "steam" you even more, but NASA disagrees with your "JWSC !- Hubble successor" belief.

      Webb often gets called the replacement for Hubble, but we prefer to call it a successor. [nasa.gov] After all, Webb is the scientific successor to Hubble; its science goals were motivated by results from Hubble. Hubble's science pushed us to look to longer wavelengths to "go beyond" what Hubble has already done. In particular, more distant objects are more highly redshifted, and their light is pushed from the UV and optical into the near-infrared.

      ...which is the first paragraph on their page addressing whether or not Webb is Hubble's successor. I don't mean to imply that they're an authoritative voice or anything on the subject, but surely their opinion should be weighed into your semantics argument?

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      This meme is a good enough approximation for most useful purposes. Yes, Hubble is more on the visual spectrum and JWSB is for the infrared spectrum. But Webb will be used to extend a lot of the stuff that Hubble did. It is in that regard the next logical thing to have after Hubble. Hubble showed us that large telescopes in space could work. Much of what Hubble could do is stuff that we can do or almost can do with large ground telescopes. JWSB will however do a lot of stuff in wavelengths that ground telesc
    • by PyroMosh (287149) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:50PM (#37186888) Homepage

      You are right, JWST is not Hubble. But there seems to be no reason at all to replace Hubble with an identical instrument. In that regard, as a spaceborne science telescope that can help capture the public's imagination of sights across the universe, the JWST *is* the Hubble successor, and it's useful to keep calling that.

      Hubble's mission became largely irrelevant half way through it's lifetime. The purpose was to achieve detail which was impossible for ground based instruments that were trapped below miles of distorting atmosphere.

      After Hubble was launched, researchers perfected techniques to work around atmospheric distortions. They fire a laser up and observe how the atmosphere distorts the beam. Using this data, a computer reverses the distortion of the atmosphere that the telescope is observing. Clever and effective. There are now dozens of earth based stations that are better instruments than Hubble.

      So JWST is designed to do what ground based stations can never do: observe parts of the spectrum that never reach the ground. No amount of computer trickery or laser distortion detection will make infrared light reach the surface. The atmosphere blocks most of it. So in that respect: A space based telescope designed to do what ground based stations CAN'T, it *is* a successor.

      This also ignores the fact that Hubble is enormously popular. There is power in this. Why would NASA not leverage that popularity and say "Remember that great program we started in the early 90s with the space telescope? Congress wants to axe funding for the next one that will be EVEN BETTER!"

      • by Teancum (67324)

        The JWST is a nightmare in terms of the management of that project, where engineering changes alone due to a lack of vision about what exactly it was supposed to do in the first place are causing enormous grief and huge budgetary problems. There reaches a point where you simply have a pull the plug on a poorly run project.

        I would argue that killing the JWST and instead taking the current design goals, sending it out to bid on a new project with new construction, would bring the project in at a cheaper pric

        • by cusco (717999)
          Since the congresscritters have decided that lawyers know better than rocket scientists and astronomers how to build a space telescope we're stuck with JWST or nothing. If the telescope isn't completed and launched now there will **BE** no successor to Hubble. As soon as the lawyers in DC get involved your competition will get strictures added saying "must be built in congressional districts X, Y, and Z, and must be financed through bank A, and launched by company M." If we don't do Webb we don't do anyt
          • by Teancum (67324)

            That didn't happen with the previous Centennial Prize competitions, but when "big bucks" seem to be on the line that does tend to happen in Washington. Most of the previous Centennial Prizes are typically less than a million dollars, but it has been a very successful program thus far and I do believe it could be used for something this large. See also: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/centennial_challenges/index.html [nasa.gov]

            The advantage here is that not only will we have more than one tele

      • Hubble's mission became largely irrelevant half way through it's lifetime. The purpose was to achieve detail which was impossible for ground based instruments that were trapped below miles of distorting atmosphere.

        That's only one of Hubble's missions and it still excels at it. (It's also the mission that those who rely on dick size to evaluate a mission focus on.)

        But Hubble can still see fainter objects than ground based scopes can. Hubble can also see IR and UV wavelengths that don't penetrate th

      • by sznupi (719324)

        there seems to be no reason at all to replace Hubble with an identical instrument

        I wouldn't be too sure about that. Access time to the Hubble is very desired, and in very short supply.
        (well, obviously not identical one)

        Hubble is not strictly a one-of-a-kind deal already, there is presumably some family resemblance to Keyhole spysats [wikipedia.org]. I can see a case for a more or less constant, low-intensity production of Hubble-likes - one to be launched every few years, incorporating latest imaging instruments, on an inexpensive expendable launcher; making scientists happy.

        Potentially making a

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Replacement != successor. JWSB is the latter, not the former. They deal in different spectrum, and Webb will be used to investigate further interesting things Hubble first noticed but couldn't really see in infrared. So its kinda like how human missions to Mars won't replace robot probes, but will succeed them. One fills one role, the other another based on what the first saw.
    • by trout007 (975317)

      One thing to remember is the farther things are away from us the older they are and the more red shifted they are. So in order to see farther you have to be able to see fainter , longer wavelengths.

  • Considering the current situation, we (the US) are literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    It's a shame that political divides politics and greedy assholes paying political figures is causing the downfall of not only the US, but science among other things.

    • Science isn't being stopped; just some of it is being slowed down.

      Nasa only amounts to a few bucks on most people's taxes. We can afford to fund it easily. Its a drop compared to the ocean of debt the crooks have racked up.

      The stupid public continues to let these games be played and falls for the propaganda. The banker's didn't just blow a hole in the economy, they are stealing our money to fill the hole before the next explosion.

      The debt is never allowed to be paid off and it's compounding interest is kill

      • No, not the "entitlements" the suckers have been tricked into calling medicare, social security, and unemployment-- all of which we pay heavily for and are even ITEMIZED out of our paychecks and are NOT entitlement programs!

        Umm, no.

        "Entitlement" has a specific meaning in Federal law. You cannot be denied Social Security once you reach retirement age for any reason, therefore it is an "entitlement". Ditto Medicare.

        Note that applying means testing to Social Security and Medicare would change them from ent

    • by Leebert (1694) *

      we (the US) are literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      Forgive the off-topic, but: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/literally [theoatmeal.com]

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:35PM (#37186786) Homepage Journal
    Look, in order to save tax breaks for private jets, sacrifices have to be made. I mean, which is more important, exploring the vastness of the universe, unlocking the secrets of mankind, or making sure trust fund babies dont have to shell out a small amount more for their private jets. If you answered the former, you are an American-hating, greedy, muslim-atheist socialist!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would totally donate $100 for the JWST if I could. Losing $100 would make me feel less sad than seeing this project cancelled. Put my name on some donor web page or something, like the Blender open movie credits my name is in.

    • by cusco (717999)
      Join the Planetary Society. DVDs with the names of its members inscribed have gone on several interplanetary missions.
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:40PM (#37186818) Journal

    http://mikulski.senate.gov/contact/ [senate.gov]

    BTW, she's also got a crabcake recipe on her site. That scores points in my book...

    -S

    • http://mikulski.senate.gov/contact/ [senate.gov]

      BTW, she's also got a crabcake recipe on her site. That scores points in my book...

      -S

      It should score points! If it's in the hand of "Babs" Mikulski, it's a done deal. She is a major supporter of NASA and utterly relentless. The Webb telescope will launch if she has anything to say about it.

  • NASA has a shoestring budget, when you're looking to make big cuts, you could eliminate NASA altogether and it wouldn't even be a noticeable debt reduction plan.

    What should be looked into is lowering defense. Ever since the atomic stalemate between US and Russia, no one is going to invade a nuclear armed country because there is threat of nuclear retaliation. I'd think we could even get by with just a little better than shoestring budget on defense in the current world.

    You have two roads to take: "
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      As I understand it, JWST is ten years behind schedule and billions over budget. It's clearly a strong candidate for cancellation unless they can show that it will actually get finished and launched within the current predicted budget.

    • by cusco (717999)
      If you chart the US budget deficit for the last 30+ years and put it up next to the military spending you get a fairly good correspondence most years. Many years the US would run a surplus without the military sucking the blood out of the budget.

      How cowardly does Washington have to be that they need to spend more money on the military than every other country in the world combined to "defend" themselves?
      • by NNKK (218503)

        IIRC, my back-of-the-envelope calculations a year or so ago were that cutting the defense budget in half basically solved US revenue problems, and still left us with a better military than the next ten combined.

        It's more complicated than that since you have to compensate for the economic impact of reduced defense spending, but a gradual combination of cuts and redirection to more productive things (e.g. infrastructure, education and job training, alternative energy investments, etc.) would get us into a muc

      • If you chart the US budget deficit for the last 30+ years and put it up next to the military spending you get a fairly good correspondence most years. Many years the US would run a surplus without the military sucking the blood out of the budget.

        How cowardly does Washington have to be that they need to spend more money on the military than every other country in the world combined to "defend" themselves?

        Its ok, the USA can just borrow some more money from China to fund its war machine.

    • Do you even know what most of that defense spending goes to? A huge amount of it is for scientific programs, well, not just like the JWST, but that's because space telescopes are NASA's job. To tell the truth, their work in optics has probably made these telescopes a whole lot more possible. If we cut all of that, people all over would be whining that we had cut a huge amount of the USA's science donations
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:55PM (#37186924) Journal
    we need change how these kinds of projects are done. Our problem is that we are using cost plus on all of these and every player in this is making money hand over fist. It is a NIGHTMARE. Instead, like commercial launch services, we need to push for having this done via a bid basis. Basically, large american companies should do fixed bids on this and then be required to anti up. Ideally, this same idea can be extended to support building of satellite backbones. Then to the backbone, we simply attach new instruments.
  • Please allow me to have 7 minutes of your time.

    The Hubble Deep Field: The Most Important Image Ever Taken
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcBV-cXVWFw [youtube.com]

    Thank You.

    • Oh. My. Fucking. God.

      And I used to wonder why science doesn't get any respect. With people like that speaking for it, it's a wonder there isn't a bounty on scientists.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Interesting pictures, interesting ideas but I don't think it is worth $8.5B+. The clip talked about how big numbers are difficult to comprehend; $8.5B+ is a huge number. I would prefer that money be spent on things that will make life better here on earth. Sorry but finding the origins of the universe does not pass that test.

      • A one off payment of 8.5Billion also known as less than 4 days spending on defence ....most of which are less careful about where the contracts go ...

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          Without defence one's science would soon belong to someone else.

          • The point is that the entire Hubble budget was less than what is wasted (i.e. not correctly spent) on defence...

            Defence is (basically) good but perhaps there are more economies to be made in the much, much larger and less well scrutinised defence budget than the over scrutinised space budget ..?

      • by sznupi (719324)
        Humans waste immensely larger sums of money when, say, throwing them at preachers claiming to have the answers - also to the very same dilemma, the origins of the universe - ...but who actually sell BS.

        What's one little $8.5B+ science project striving to actually provide reliable data, when compared to even yearly waste at the typically most prominent and expensive buildings accompanying human settlements?
        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          So let me get this straight; because we throw money away on religion we should throw money away on science. Have you ever heard the "two wrongs don't make a right"?

  • Someone enlighten me if I'm clueless here, but here's my thought:

    Why not have a section when people do their taxes to donate to specific programs directly. I know you can donate to the IRS in general, but I never heard of them making high-level programs available for specific citizen-targeted donations. Another possibility is to have a portion of individual citizen's taxes be customized by them so they can control somewhat where their tax money goes (this could only work as a small percentage).

    This would pr

  • You can have billions in oil and corn subsidies, trillions in arms, but how dare you suggest we actually have a space program on par with countries such as Russia, China, and India...
  • I'm just as exited about finding these answers as anyone, but what are the real ramifications and are we actually creating new technology or just struggling to use existing to solve a complicated problem.

    I lost my mother to cancer a few years ago now. So yes this is a bit emotional, but I rather this 5 billion go to cancer research. This will have real ramifications.

    If you look at say the Apollo program it was pretty obvious that solving the problem ( going to moon ) would solve many problems that would spr

    • by Aardpig (622459)
      If JWST is cancelled, the next decade of Astrophysics research in the USA is dead in the water. Over. Finito. Some perspective: the Department of Defense spends more money each year on air conditioning for its troops stationed in the Middle East, than the ENTIRE NASA budget. Certainly, I don't begrudge our troops some comfort in their living quarters; but isn't it *at least* as important that we launch the JWST, which -- unlike anything before it -- has the capability of observing the very first stars and
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        If JWST is cancelled, the next decade of Astrophysics research in the USA is dead in the water. Over. Finito.

        How's that possible when JWST isn't supposed to launch until at least 2018?

        • by Aardpig (622459)

          Because all of the other planning in Astrophysics (in particular, the recent Decadal Survey) has been based on the presumption that JWST would be occurring. This includes decisions about what other missions to support; what preparatory science to fund; who to hire into faculty positions; etc.

          Cancellation of JWST would be as much of a blow to Astrophysics as the cancellation of the SSC was to US Particle Physics (think: CERN).

    • by Tom Womack (8005)

      There is already a prodigious amount of money going to cancer research, because marginally effective chemotherapy drugs can be sold for quite large sums of money and truly-effective chemotherapy drugs could be sold for ludicrous sums of money; it's not clear that there's that much marginal gain to be had from another five billion.

      The US stopped funding the SSC, and the result was that the scientists went to Europe to work on the LHC there. If they stop funding space observatories, I will rejoice happily as

    • by sznupi (719324)
      Advances from Apollo were worthwhile mostly in hindsight. And surely you must know that Apollo was to a large degree for dick-waving reasons (and possibly pushed forward so ferociously also because its prophet, like every good one, died soon after bringing the good news); at its core it was a crazy unsustainable crash project, with scientific and technical benefits demonstrably more or less equalled by unmanned probes of the time (to say nothing of what we could have accomplished in the meantime, over the 4
    • I'm sorry about your mother, truly, but I'm not sure $5B for "cancer research" would really have much of an impact--that's an old line of thinking and we know better now. Twenty years ago people used to talk about finding a "cure for cancer," but you never hear that seriously anymore. A lot of money has been spent on general cancer research; what we learned from that was that cancer isn't just one thing. There are a huge variety of cancers, with different causes, mechanisms, and consequently, treatments.

  • just to remind.... http://gizmodo.com/5813257/air-conditioning-our-military-costs-more-than-nasas-entire-budget [gizmodo.com] ppl fighting for the same mudball and fucking religions and not evening speaking same language. This is getting so ridiculous we really deserve to be wiped away.

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