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Space Science

NASA Names Next-Generation Space Telescope 24

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> <at> <ladyandtramp.com>> 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.

  • WTF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by masterkool ( 550633 ) <masterkool@hotmail.com> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @01:42PM (#4229835) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pease1 ( 134187 ) <<bbunge> <at> <ladyandtramp.com>> on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @04:00PM (#4231160)
    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.

  • by mike3411 ( 558976 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2002 @06:52PM (#4232602) Homepage
    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.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351