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Government Space The Almighty Buck Science

NASA Tries To Save Hubble's Successor 134

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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  • 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 either, particularly when the capabilities of Hubble are going to be gone when that telescope finally kicks the bucket. There very well may be another telescope (or not) to act as a genuine replacement, but this isn't it.

  • 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 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 WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @06:56AM (#37189302) Journal
    wrongo indeed.
    You are putting words into my mouth. I said 'cost plus'. That is ALL I SAID. You are the one trying to make it fix vs. % on the minor amount
    The problem with cost plus is that companies have zero incentives to cut costs and leads to costs overruns instead. The companies simply run up the costs, of which costs have built in profits.
    IIRC, reagan put NASA and DOD on cost plus. That lead to costs overrun and timelines that extended 2-3x what was planned. Finally under clinton, the DOD was allowed to switch to fixed bid. It worked for ULA and Delta.
    COTS was awarded as fixed bid, and then CRS was done as the same.
    Well, that is the same approach on the CCdev. These are fixed bids going out to accomplish a set amount of work. This is leading to cost overruns being gone.

    That same approach can be done on future NASA projects. If the company bids and then claims that they can not finish it for the money, not a problem. They are simply forbidden from any future NASA contracts. Issue solved.

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