Why We Need the James Webb Space Telescope

By Julianne Dalcanton | July 7, 2011 8:38 am

Over the last 24 hours, the astronomy community has begun facing the possible cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  The House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee has recommended: “$4.5 billion for NASA Science programs, which is $431 million below last year’s level. The bill also terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.”  This is not the end of the game for JWST, as many other branches of government have yet to weigh in, but it’s not good news.

Looking at it from the public’s view, sure, cutting projects that are “billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management” sounds like a pretty reasonable action.  But I’d like to try to take a few minutes to explain why it’s not as simple as the committee would like you to believe.

First and foremost, in many fields of astronomy we are rapidly approaching the limit of what can be done scientifically without JWST.  I recently finished teaching a graduate class on extragalactic astronomy, and I can’t tell you the number of times where I brought the students up to speed on the state of a field, and then had to say “If we’re going to push this to the next level, we need JWST”.  To demonstrate this, the plot below shows the brightness (i.e., flux) of an astronomical point source that can be detected with different telescopes in a fixed amount of time, as a function of the wavelength of light (along with a typical galaxy spectrum).  The magenta points show that JWST is hundreds of times more sensitive than anything out there.  In terms of scientific impact, this is like the difference between walking (4 miles/hr) and flying (400 miles/hr) for your ability to explore terrain on the Earth.  This is not to mention the drastic increase in the angular resolution of JWST compared to any other telescope on that plot — JWST will be able to see fine-scale structure that has never been seen at these wavelengths.

Moreover, JWST will blow through limits that lie at some of the most exciting areas of astronomy, with some of the widest public appeal, including high redshift galaxies and extrasolar planets.  The public rightfully adores Hubble for expanding our view of the universe, but it’s not going to last forever.  (Given funding constraints, the most likely fate for Hubble is the same as your 20 year old Toyota Tercel — it gets you where you’re going, but at some point you stop paying the money to fix the heater, repair the cracked windshield, and deal with the oil leak, and accept that sooner or later you’re going to be stranded on the side of the highway.)  When Hubble expires — and it will within a decade or less — where is the system that will expand upon the wonders that Hubble revealed?  Even Milky Jay knows that JWST is the future.

The demise of JWST would be a huge blow to american space-based astronomy as well.  On the ground, the US has ceded much of its historical primacy to the Europeans.  If JWST were cancelled, it would be a heavy blow to the US dominance in running true space-based observatories.  NASA will continue to run “experiments” in space — i.e., targeted smaller missions focused on limited scientific goals, but they will be giving up their unique place in creating flagship facilities that literally anyone can potentially use.  The impact of Hubble came in large part because it wasn’t a specific experiment for one particular problem.  It has broad capabilities, that were kept up to date with servicing missions, but using those capabilities was then essentially “crowd-sourced” to the entire world.  Through on-going rigorous, and frankly brutal, evaluations of scientific proposals, the community identifies the single most important scientific questions to be addressed by Hubble.  This process is carried out every. single. year., making sure that Hubble gets the most bang for the buck.  The same process also applied to NASA’s other “flagship” missions (e.g., Chandra, Spitzer), focused on other wavelengths, but these facilities too are rapidly running out of time.

To see what the loss of JWST would mean, look at the following chart of NASA missions.  JWST is the only flagship observatory coming up.  If we lose it, the person with the next great idea loses the chance to try it out.

So yes, JWST has cost more than was planned for.  But the majority of the cost is now “sunk costs”, and a huge fraction of the telescope and instruments actually exist.  This is not just a hole that people have been shoveling money into, and not getting anything for — useful stuff is actually built!  And working!   I would of course prefer that JWST launched on time and under budget, but, given how close we are to the end, I much prefer to go for it.  Canceling JWST is not going to usher in a golden age of other space-based science opportunities (the “crowding out theory”, where once the shade of JWST is gone, a thousand flowers will bloom).  The money will simply be gone from space-based astronomy, and instead of a single tree we can all climb, there will be some smaller pieces of shrubbery.

So to close, I’d like to leave with you with one of the finest bits of advocacy for JWST around.

(edit: Which I now realize Risa just posted! She has “how to contact your legislator” information, which is the single most important thing you can do at this point.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Politics, Space, Top Posts
  • http://www.westernsfa.org Bob

    Minor mistake, this will affect life on Earth. If it can see planets in nearby solar systems then we will have two possibilities, we can find a way to expand ourselves to another planet or we could find neighbors on same planet. Both outcomes affect life on earth and not looking just means we will be scared (censored) when our neighbor stops by to ask for a cup of sugar.

  • Missy

    I hope you do not mind but I linked my congressman to this article in my email to him. I explained my concerns and told him that while I am a space nut I do not know enough to give a proper defense of this project. I figured I would let an expert take over for that. I really hope he follows my request to take am moment to read a couple things. Thank you for posting this information :)

  • JT

    Julianne — I’m not so sure that we’ve actually sunk most of the costs already. I thought we had sunk about $3B in so far, and that the Casani report implied a $6.8B final cost (if it doesn’t inflate any more — which NASA has so far shown no confidence in cost control). So it’s probably another $4B to go, more than half the cost. I don’t want it cancelled — but it’s not like it’s “almost done” or anything at all. And it’s not until we hit I&T when a bunch of the real problems will start showing up if history is any example.

    The other impact of course, too, is that every $100M overrun on JWST (which seem to be frequent) is another Explorer class mission that won’t be competed, another wavelength or science target that doesn’t get it’s turn too…

  • Maggie

    This is the best write-up I’ve seen on the importance of JWST to science so far. Thanks. I’ve tweeted and Facebooked it.

  • dirk

    This seems like a worthy project to fund.. what projects are being funded with the rest of the 4.5 billion? Are they more important than this one?

  • Dirk

    It is very sad, but I think the telescope should die. The project has been badly mismanaged. Arguing based on sunk costs is generally a mistake. (See, for example: We’ve been in Afghanistan for 10 years without success so we’d better stay there longer.)

    Despite its technical advantages, it also just seems to be too expensive. Hubble was $2.5 billion to construct (much more if you count the cost of the shuttle repair missions) and the latest estimates for the JWST are $6.8 billion (from Wikipedia). Personally, I’m fine with funding toys for astronomers, but practically I think this is too big a jump up the cost curve too quickly.

    Your arguments are also misleading. We are not close to the end of the JWST. Cost estimates are increasing and estimated launch dates pushed back. We are probably less than halfway there. If the Hubble is running down, I’d rather we accept the JWST as a lesson learned and build another Hubble.

  • http://www.fieldofscience.com/ Edward

    Nice summary. I’m not worried about Webb being defunded, but that doesn’t mean episodes like this don’t have lessons to teach.

    It’s better not to put all your eggs in a single basket, even if that basket is Webb.

    For starters, if Webb fails, it will fail spectacularly (same with MSL). And then where will we (NASA) be? In a very bad place.

    The counterexample are the super telescopes. Competition is good. Sure they’re expensive, but relative to one another, as opposed to nothing as is the case with Webb. And frankly, the fact that we’re embarking on multiple projects of this size is the best defense against the canard that they’re too costly. So NASA, in the future, take your budget and divvy it up between multiple, competitive yet complimentary, grand missions (i.e.)

  • http://peakempire.wordpress.com/ mat noir

    Cost overruns on NASA (D0D and Other) projects are normal. For the deluded and dis-intellectual US Congress, any worthwhile project with a realistic cost estimate upfront is a non-strater.

    JWST is an international project with substantive participation (with money) from ESA and Canada. On the other hand, free billions (subsidies) can be had for senseless projects like corn ethanol or shale fracking.

  • Chris

    I think the scariest thing is the graphic showing that about half of the astrophysics missions will be ending in a year or so. It seems like it’s the James Webb or nothing.

    To put things in perspective. The next US Aircraft Carrier (USS Gerald R. Ford) to be finished in 2015 costs $5.1 billion. Will we learn anything from it? No. Can it fly into space? No. Does the US need it? No. The US has 11 current aircraft carriers, the rest of the world has 9 total. This warped sense of priorities is killing America.

  • Parasites In Academia

    Julianne, my suggestion to you is to appeal to all these immensely wealthy, leftist fat cats in Hollywood (but I repeat myself) for the additional funding. After all, it’s only leftists who are scientifically literate, or so we’re told. I mean, why would you try to influence those legislators representing mostly Neanderthals in red states who quite obviously believe the earth is square?

    Why not call Jane Fonda, Al Gore, Babs Striesand, Ba Ba Wawha, or any number of liberal multi-millionaries producing movies and running television stations and who so adore science and are quite literally sitting on billions – just waiting to give it away to you science guys? Why would you bother to ask those moronic red-staters to pony up for your pet projects? Hey, better yet, circulate a petition for donations from the New England States – add New York and California in there.

  • keith

    Without the space program we may as well be rolling around in gutters throwing stones at each other. I don’t understand politicians.

  • Max

    Two corrections:

    (for Dirk) Hubble cost in present day dollars is more like $6B without servicing. So it’s not much cheaper.

    (for Edward) the only super-telescope with a realistic path for funding is built by ESO. Our decadal survey placed the 30m class telescope in 3rd place with little chance of funding until one can downselect to one. Compared to NSF’s astronomy budget a 30m class telescope is probably as large or larger than JWST is for NASA.

    The argument about not putting all eggs in one basket is not productive now: they are in one basket. If JWST is cancelled what is the chance that Congress will trust NASA to build anything significant? We would simply be losing leadership in astronomy as we did in particle physics after the supercollider cancellation or even worse. We are partners in European particle physics experiments but the US and NASA credibility as a partner with the Europeans would be damaged as JWST is after all an international project.

  • CB

    First, thank you Julianne for explaining why JWST is needed, and how we need to break through fundamental barriers to further observations necessary to advance science, or we can just stagnate and keep telling grad students that we can’t know the answer until someone decides to build a suitable instrument.

    @ Dirk: Arguments about sunk costs are only a mistake if you fail to consider the additional cost of continuing. E.g. “we’ve spent 10 years and $trillions in Afghanistan already” would be a great argument if there was any reason to think that another year or two would make a substantial difference. It would be foolish to abandon all the progress when the end was so close! But that’s obviously not the case, so instead it’s more like: Don’t throw good money (and lives) after bad.

    For the JWST, while management was poor, money was not being misspent. A terrific instrument is well along in development, and there is no sign that it would stagnate indefinitely. Maybe not quite halfway, but that’s halfway through creating an instrument that will blow open the doors to astronomical observations and fundamental science. Or we could abandon the half-done project, and have to spend that much again later whenever we finally decide we’re done letting science stagnate!

    We’re talking decades of scientific progress that we’re going to just let go down the drain, because we’re only halfway through the project, and we’re in a political climate where saving a scant few $billion while $trillions are spent elsewhere seems like a good trade off!

  • Dirk

    Max, I think your cost claim for Hubble is wrong. According to Wikipedia and a couple other sources I found, the $6B figure includes the repair costs. I can’t find anything definitive, though, and the Wikipedia claims are unsourced.

    CB, perhaps you are in a higher income bracket than me, but I think saving a few billion dollars is always a good thing. I really tire of this argument we see so often: “pet project xxx is only $n billion dollars, a fraction of the federal budget, and therefore it should not be subject to any scrutiny.” Most items on the budget are a small fraction of the total, and the only way you can budget responsibly is by scrutinizing everything.

    If we could say with confidence that $7B was an upper bound on the cost of the JWST, then I would support it, with some reluctance. But given the record so far, the true cost could be $14B. At some point you have to cut it off. Yes, I understand that spreading misleading cost figures is a not uncommon practice, but that does not make it acceptable. Once budget estimates have lost credibility, funding should always be restricted—for defense projects as well as science projects.

  • Parasites In Academia

    Kieth, When NASA first started out we got some bang for our buck, but now it’s just another incredibly wasteful “gubmint” agency. They’re living off their past glories and accomplishments, but those days are long gone. Now it’s little more than a grab bag of government contractors, in-house scientists, grants hunters and predominately incompetent government slugs sucking up our tax dollars. The mere fact that there are more wasteful agencies doesn’t cut any ice with those of us (and we now number in the tens of millions) who would totally defund just about every needless and useless federal agency now in existence, and that means quite literally about 95% of them. This especially applies to any and all agencies handing out research grants of any kind. The first chance we get, Kieth, we are going to make some draconian cuts which will put you lefty scientists and academics sucking up taxpayer funds (but I repeat myself) in a shock-induced coma. This may come far quicker than any of you think – can you say 2012?

    These comments are political because the poster’s own comments were political. Just thought I would remind the reader of that.

  • http://RonPaul2012.com JGalt

    From previous blog post #6, “Politicians are corrupt and greedy and will only listen to people who fund their campaigns. ”

    Yes, and this is catch-22 with government. The more money politicians and bureaucrats have access to, the more that will eventually be diverted to “voter blocks” (aka special interests) and away from productive projects.

    So, the way to solve corruption is to give them more money? That only makes sense if you’re benefiting from the corruption.

  • LJ

    Which is better – funding a war in Iraq and Afghanistan which doesn’t seem to actually improve our safety (see, for example, the increasing security hazards the TSA is always warning about) for thousands of billions of dollars, or improving the educational system and increasing scientific literacy in the US (astronomy is one of the fields that can inspire everyone and draw kids into science)?
    The JWST is one of those public works that can inspire the next generation.

  • OhDear

    Parasite In Academia,

    I also think it would be great if scientific research in this country could be funded by private wealth. Unfortunately, it seems that most billionaires prefer to sit on their money instead of spend it. And I don’t just mean spending it on science – 100 years ago your average billionaire would found a museum here, build a bridge there and start all sorts of projects which not only provided jobs for people, but also left a legacy for future generations. This does not happen today (I don’t know why).

    The problem is that if nobody funds science research we will eventually be dominated economically (or militarily) by the Chinese, or anyone else. A fair fraction of our biggest corporations today are tech companies, and they were nearly all started by science grad students – young people who are scientifically trained and immersed in a culture of research. We shouldn’t forget that the source of US power derives mainly from economic might, which pays for the military.

    So by all means let’s reduce government research grants – but only if the shortfall is made up from private investment. If not, then in a few years we’ll find ourselves up the creek without a paddle.

  • http://www.fieldofscience.com/ Edward

    Max: As I said, I’m not really concerned that Webb will be cut. What I was saying is that in the future, NASA would do well to steer clear of all or nothing marquee missions in favor of multiple, redundant, complimentary missions that compete internally for funds and thus are highly motivated to stay under budget and on schedule. I’ll reiterate, the real danger for Webb and MSL is not whether or not they will fly, it’s whether or not they will crash. There’s a reason these missions are so expensive. They are incredibly complex and ambitious, and if they experience a failure, they’re space junk.

    And as for the giant telescopes, from what I can gleen the GMT, TMT and E-ELT are all a go.

  • http://RonPaul2012.com JGalt

    #17 – No disagreement with you in concept. Iraq and our current situation in Afghanistan is a waste (as is the TSA.) Quality education is paramount. However, in referencing my comment
    #16, it should be no surprise that funding is taken from productive enterprises and given to the looters and moochers of society.

    The solution is not to increase funding to the government. The government is not a good steward of resources and therefore should not be charged with allocating them.

  • Marshall

    Dirk at #6 and others – we’re well beyond the halfway mark for JWST at this point. The telescope mirror is completed, the instruments are all being finished over this coming year, all the new technology development has been completed successfully. At this point, the challenge is to get all the various components assembled into a unified observatory, and then tested, tested, and re-tested so that we are confident they will work flawlessly after launch. Yes, that is an intricate process and not inexpensive, but the hard parts, the fundamental technology developments, are all done and very successfully.

    #15 and #18 – much scientific research in this country *is* funded by private wealth, for instance the Lick, Palomar, and Keck observatories, and the ongoing TMT design study. But all of those gifts are, inflation adjusted, around the $100-$200M level. That’s the maximum amount of money it’s been possible to get out of wealthy individuals for the last 150 years for these sorts of projects, and it’s just not enough to do anything in space.

    Edward @ #19 – While ESO has identified the funding necessary to build EELT, the TMT and GMT consortia are still struggling to firm up the necessary partnerships. Neither has the backing of the US federal government, because the NSF has no money available to commit to such a project (the majority of its future large telescope funding being directed toward LSST instead), and without a US federal commitment, the various foreign national funding agencies have been reluctant to make a commitment. e.g. Canada’s National Research Council wants to either have the US federal government sign up to back TMT so it can make an agreement with an equal partner in the NSF, or Canada will pull out and go join ESO and EELT in 2015.

  • CB

    @ Dirk: It doesn’t matter what income bracket you’re in, because it’s about relative magnitude — if your problem is that you’re having trouble paying the rent, you don’t solve it by not putting a penny into the gumball machine. Especially if it was a magic gumball that could part the veil of the universe’s secrets, and the rent was for an apartment you weren’t even living in and people kept trying to blow you up every time you went there… Okay this analogy is getting tortured. Point is, numbers have contexts and in this context a billion dollars ain’t much at all.

    Scrutiny is fine — the project was scrutinized, and the conclusion was there were problems in management but money was not being misspent, and it’s making good progress. So, instead of canceling the project, fix the management issues. The conclusion that we must cancel the project in order to save money is completely divorced from the reality of its contribution to our financial problems.

    Yes, at some point an out-of-control project must be cut off. This project is not at that point. Canceling it doesn’t help us with our larger problems at all, while it does hurt the progress of science for decades to come. That’s foolish.

  • http://RonPaul2012.com JGalt

    #18 – Companies are financing science. If their research fails, its their investment down the drain. If the research yields useful results, then their customers benefit and are willing to pay for the results. Apple and Google, for example, come to mind.

    100 years ago, taxes did not soak up half your income. More than half of whats left is then taxed again in the form of property taxes, sales taxes, estate taxes and myriad of other taxes and fees. Give a tax credit, not just a deduction, and I suspect that charitable donations would soar enough to offset many government programs. I, personally, would much prefer to contribute towards science than to warfare. Unfortunately, our politicians seem to think the opposite.

    That power to reallocate wealth is how our politicians stay in office. The moochers that benefit from this looting are all to happy to see the system perpetuated. These moochers can be found in academia and in business (think GE.) Increasing the size of government will simply exacerbate the problem.

  • http://RonPaul2012.com JGalt

    #21: “But all of those gifts are, inflation adjusted, around the $100-$200M level”
    1) That, plus the taxes individuals are already being forced to pay to fund someone else’s special interest. (Assuming your $200m figure is accurate, which is doubtful. )
    2) You leave out the science being done by business, which, like it or not, is real science none-the-less.

  • Parasites In Academia

    Oh Dear, you make some excellent observations. However, allow me to point out that the main reason you do not find billionaire philanthropists anymore is because the government is grabbing far, far more of their money than they did in the days the Carnegie, Rockefeller, DuPont, Astor and all the rest of them. This means both personal income and corporate income.

    Further, almost all of that old money is now going in the form of grants to political and social causes, namely very left wing activist groups masquerading as non-partisan groups in the public interest. This is also now true of many new tech billionaires and huge tech firms who donate heavily to leftist political and social causes to avoid being clubbed around by democrat thugs in DC – just as Bill Gates, GM and GE how that works. It’s called crony capitalism.

    I won’t even mention George Soros, Stefan T. Edlis and John Kerry, all three of whom are hardcore, leftist ideologues and who contribute hundreds of millions to strictly political causes. Between the three of these, and throw in some small change Microsoft and Google donations, they could fund ten of those much-needed scopes and not break a financial sweat.

  • Marshall

    #24 and #25 – why doubt the $200M? Most recently, Gordon Moore (of Moore’s Law) gave $200M to the TMT project (see http://tmt.org/news-center/gordon-and-betty-moore-foundation-commits-200-million-support-thirty-meter-telescope).

    Let’s look back at the era of Carnegie and Rockefeller you mention. The Palomar Hale telescope was started with a $6M in 1928 grant from the Rockefeller foundation, which is about $80M today. The Carnegie Institution of Washington (today Carnegie Institution for Science) received $22M from Andrew Carnegie from 1901-1911, which is about $500M today — but that’s not for one science project, that’s for an entire research institution that works in astronomy, geophysics, biology, and more. Looking even further back, James Lick gave $700k in ~1860 to found Lick Observatory; today that’s maybe $20-30M.

    There are very, very few billion dollar class gifts in history. Pretty much the only one I can think of is Johns Hopkins’ gift of $7M in 1873, equivalent to about $1.3B today, to found his eponymous medical school and university.

    #24 again – in not mentioning corporate supported research, I was only responding to earlier posts about private wealth. Absolutely there is a tremendous amount of corporate funded research happening today of excellent caliber. But it’s well established that corporations prefer to fund applied research rather than fundamental basic science. The amount of truly fundamental research like astronomy or particle physics being supported by corporate america has continued to decline over time since the heydey of Bell Labs and Xerox PARC.

  • Gary B

    I’ll just add that Carnegie funded not just one but hundreds of museums, libraries and institutes across the US. He gave away essentially all of his money before he died, mostly to institutions dedicated to educational purposes if not pure science. Others (Gates, Rockefeller, Ford, etc.) have donated $billions to other causes but I don’t know if that counts for this topic.

    Then there are the entrepreneurs promoting space exploration, such as Elon Musk and Space-X, and Bigelow Aerospace. While this is not pure science, I like to think that their work promotes space science in some important ways. They are on the cusp between science and bleeding-edge engineering, and in both cases individuals are betting on the order of $1 billion of their own money. If such endeavours succeed, it’s possible that the cost of building a space telescope in the future will be cut by a factor of four, or even 10.

    I know much of nothing about the details of the JWST project, but I assume that a big chunk of the remaining cost of JWST is the actual launch and ongoing operations. If so, then the remaining cost of getting the thing ready to go ($500 million? $1 billion?) actually is relatively small compared to what’s already spent. So the real risk prior to launch is not the total $3+ billion, but just the cost of getting there. If for some reason it doesn’t get finished, then the cost of the launch can be used elsewhere.

  • Max

    Dirk, the about $6B cost for Hubble in present day dollars came from a NASA HQ presentation at an American Astronomical society meeting a few years ago. I would consider that more official than wikipedia, unfortunately it’s only useful to those who were there.

    Essentially you have to take the old number and add 20 years of inflation in order to comparing it to JWST’s cost. That’s a big difference. There were also other differences in the way NASA accounted costs. With the servicing missions, one is probably looking at more than $10B or much more if one were to include the costs of the Shuttle.

  • CB

    Tax rates were much higher from the early 30s to the turn of the 80s, the period in which (especially post-WWII) where the U.S. established itself and it’s corporations as the forerunners of global science and technology. All of the top sources of private-funded R&D you think of today were founded before the massive tax cuts of the 80s. Since then private pure research has declined steadily, and today Bell Labs no longer conducts basic research, and even those who still do (IBM, HP, etc) have greatly cut back and focused instead on applied research with more immediate returns.

    So, while I’m not saying this is a case of cause-and-effect and we need to raise taxes, the opposite belief that our high taxes are preventing such research, and that lowering taxes would cause a surge of private science research is demonstrably untrue.

  • Marshall

    Gary,

    Actually the cost of launch for JWST is free to the US — the Europeans are going to launch it on one of their Ariane Vs as part of their commitment to the partnership. That’s probably a few 100M €, not billions. The majority of the remaining cost is assembly, integration, and test; salaries for all the scientists and engineers working on this project, of which there are a couple thousand people. Then the operating budget post launch will probably be around just $100M/yr, same as Hubble, and a large fraction of that is the grant money that’s given out to support the costs of research for all the scientists and students using it.

  • Tom

    This is the SSC all over again. The US HEP community has never recovered from this SSC debacle & now our energy ‘frontier’ has moved to the LHC at CERN presently at operating ~1/6 the energy of the 40 TeV SSC that we would have had 12yrs ago…& we’re all happy about it!

  • CB

    @ Tom:

    Exactly. I’m more concerned about the global perspective, the state of humanity’s knowledge rather than U.S.’s position as leader, but when we dropped the ball, by the time someone else picked it up, it was to make something that was still less than what we — humanity — would have had.

    Like look above, where Dirk’s suggestion is that we just build another Hubble! Because yeah, that’s how you push the envelope of human knowledge! By doing the same thing you did before!

  • http://quantumg.blogspot.com/ Trent Waddington

    If funding for JWST continues, not only will it most likely never fly, it will also send a clear signal to other NASA projects: there’s no consequences for inept management. Your best isn’t required.

    The cosmology community should be advocating for new management, a new team and a new start.

  • CtPt

    OhDear: Ignoring other issues raised, you show you don’t know much about modern million/billionaires with your comment suggesting they sit on their money and do nothing with it. While some projects get more attention then others, a lot of wealthy people spend their “retirement” running non-profits and looking for good ways to give away the vast majority of their wealth. Some, however, avoid attention; not all millionaires are extroverts or want to bother with the trouble and pains of media attention. Some, in fact, precondition their donations on their anonymity.

    I’d say it’s one of the favorite pass-times of the super-rich, really. Some spend different amounts of time doing it; many enjoy making money for the sake of making money so keep on at it at ages LONG past where the average joe would retire. Others hit 45 or 50 and decide to spend the next couple decades dolling out the millions; a little here, a little there. Or, like Warren Buffet, outsource the whole process to someone like Gates.

    There was a CNBC special a few years ago that looked in to the little secret world of philanthropy. Wall Street’s ultra-rich join secretive clubs where they get together and share ideas on how their money can get the most bang-for-the-buck.

    Another little point.. Why don’t they build bridges? I’ve drove across the country twice in the last few years. Despite cries to the contrary, about every spot that needs a bridge has a bridge. Why not a museum? There’s already tons, and places that lack them do tend to get help making them, like Orlando’s recent Performing Arts Center; if I recall hearing correctly, half its budget is private donations. UCF’s recent medical school and expansions thereof would’ve been impossible if not for massive donations from often anonymous donors.

    I know, though; it’s politically correct to view them as capitalist whores who sit on their piles of gold and spend their days jealously defending it and kicking homeless people.

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com Lab Lemming

    Can they descope and launch what’s built?

  • http://www.atmos.uw.edu/~achen89 Alex K Chen (Simfish InquilineKea)

    I would suspect that the JWST would be more attractive to private billionaires, as compared to most other projects though. After all, everyone (including the billionaires) gets zillions of zillions of awe-inspiring pictures from these telescopes. They don’t really get anything tangible from most other science projects like the Superconducting Supercollider (even though they are also quite necessary)

    And the Hubble is pretty much already a proof of concept for the JWST. We already know what we’re going to get out of this, whereas it’s hard to quantify the payoffs if we spend $10 billion on NIH cancer research instead (research does indicate that money going to the HHMI tends be more efficient – see http://www.slate.com/id/2240838/ ).

    I’m disappointed that this might lose funding, but given all the sunk costs that we’ve already incurred, as well as the fact that we’ll eventually lose the Hubble, I’m more optimistic about private funding for this project as compared with any other science project. And I know that some people in Silicon Valley are pretty damn disappointed about this – they’re the types of people who I hope will come in. I know that Bill Gates donated $10 million to the LSST, for example

    PS: Hi Julianne. :)

  • TomKi

    There is no need to explain justification of the JWST. It was already justified long ago when it was approved for construction. Justified then, even more justified now.

    Justification not the problem. Funding is. It is a problem because JWST has cost far far more than ever imagined, even with the most generous allowance.

    Why? 1) It has proven to be simply too complicated, too challenging to build. This contributed to a major cost overrun. 2) It has been poorly managed. Why? Beyond the usual reasons for bad management, it is simply extremely difficult to manage because of the immense technological and fabrication complications.

    So the JWST is in trouble, in the end, because it has proven to be beyond US ability to construct.

  • http://page3.com I.P. Freeley

    Here’s my radical proposal–astronomers should throw the JWST team under the bus and make a bid for the money.

    It’s pretty obvious the JWST budget was bullshit from the start. They claimed to be able to build a huge complicated telescope for less than Hubble. Top astronomers and NASA officials lied to congress to get their budgets approved. It was an open secret that the JWST budget was wrong. Everyone knew it was too small, and there was so much technology development involved no one could even guess how wrong it was. Then the decadal review came along and ranked JWST the #1 priority in astronomy, even though they knew the budget was ridiculous. That’s the same as Chef Magazine ranking unicorn tenderloin seasoned with pixie dust as the #1 meal that should be developed. I think there should be consequences for having management that crappy. But why should the rest of the astronomical community pay for these bozos bad planning?

    Why not have JDEM (or whatever they are calling JDEM these days) step up and say they can do their mission at 75% of the JWST budget? Why not try to get that money put toward GMT or TMT? Why keep throwing good money down the JWST sink hole when there are so many other projects that could be funded?

    We don’t need to save JWST, we need to save the funding that could be used on projects that actually know how to make a budget.

  • Charon

    “But given the record so far, the true cost could be $14B.”

    Pretty doubtful – the cost overruns have been because of enormous technical challenges. Which have all now been pretty much solved.

    “Here’s my radical proposal–astronomers should throw the JWST team under the bus and make a bid for the money.”

    Ha. Ha. Ha. If there was any chance whatsoever that astronomy would get to keep this money, that would be a vaguely tempting offer, especially to a UV astronomer like me. Still wouldn’t be a good idea, with everything JWST will be able to do, but tempting.

    But there is exactly zero chance that we’ll get to use that money for something else.

  • Ijon Tichy

    I’m worried about the risky, one-shot nature of the James Webb Telescope deployment. There are so many chances for something to go wrong before the telescope becomes operational. Mechanical and electronic problems happen, and this is way more mechanically and electronically complicated than Hubble, which was reachable by astronauts, and hence repairable. You can forget about repairing the JWT if something, however simple to fix on ground or in low Earth orbit, goes wrong. A possibly tiny flaw and something on the order of 10 billion dollars goes down the drain. Not worth the risk in my opinion. I’d rather the money be spent on smaller, more realistic projects. Maybe best to cut our losses now.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    “Give a tax credit, not just a deduction, and I suspect that charitable donations would soar enough to offset many government programs.”

    Do the maths. A tax credit means the government reimburses the person who made the donation. It would be more efficient if the government spent the money directly.

  • Anon1356

    You better join those dots and smoothen the curve before you show the first plot to lawmakers.

  • chris

    i suppose people reading this blog deeply enough to comment on it are predominantly those who care about science. so within this group, there is a strong tendency to keep state funding out of the game entirely.

    wow. just wow. am i glad that i have an academic job outside the us.

  • Marshall

    #40: I’m worried about the risky, one-shot nature of the James Webb Telescope deployment. There are so many chances for something to go wrong before the telescope becomes operational.

    Ensuring that such problems will not occur is probably the most significant fraction of the remaining cost of development. There is an enormous amount of testing, double-checking, and re-testing planned. And those of us working on the mission have very much taken to heart the lesson of Hubble – we cannot afford to be complacent, and cutting corners on testing only risks having to spend even more money fixing something later. I’ve written up some detailed comments on the testing plans over at this Ars Technica thread , which I’d invite you to take a look at.

    #38: We don’t need to save JWST, we need to save the funding that could be used on projects that actually know how to make a budget.

    And at this scale, which projects are those? Budgeting multi-billion-dollar projects that have never been done before by the human race is extraordinarily challenging. Look at Boeing’s 787 or the Airbus 380, look at gigadollar infrastructure like the replacement San Francisco Bay Bridge or the English Channel Tunnel, look at any major power plant anywhere. It is essentially impossible to accurately budget projects of this type, precisely because they are pushing into new and unexplored territory full of unknowns. So we have to choose, as a nation and a species, whether to attempt such projects and accept that even our best-effort plans and budgets will need revisions, or else to give up attempting bold goals entirely.

  • Pingback: Endings | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine()

  • Parasites In Academia

    What most of you seem to be missing here is that NASA, a now bloated, inneficient and incompetent agency, is the fundamental problem. Moreover, too many of you are dismissing the matter of enormous cost overruns like it’s small potatoes or something, when in fact it’s now billions of dollars over budget. This is what has pissed off so many of our representatives in congress, many of whom have run small businesses themselves and appreciate the necessity of staying within your projected budget. Effectively, they were flat out lied to and don’t appreciate NASA’s cheeky attitude here.

    Lastly, by definition most of you guys are likely academics, teachers, or perhaps doing research work for some private company. I would guess a lot of you are public employees. Most of you likely have never faced the harsh realities of actually producing something of real market value, and also of meeting committments. There will be far more drastic cuts coming from this congress, and frankly it’s about time. When the political climate is right after the next election, they’ll go after the real big money, like eliminating entire agencies and massive entitlement programs.

    BTW, I am an avid amateur astronomer myself, so you can back off that particular criticism of my comments. While it’s mot my profession, I love to dabble in cosmology and physics. As a matter of fact, I built my own 16 inch Newtonian reflector which performs better than most scopes off the shelf.

  • http://www.fieldofscience.com/ Edward

    Marshall: When you get a chance can you shoot me an email (See email link under Contact).

  • Sheesh

    @Parasite:

    “I would guess a lot of you are public employees. Most of you likely have never faced the harsh realities of actually producing something of real market value, and also of meeting committments [sic].”

    This statement may fit nicely in your ideology, where anything or anyone tax-funded is by definition a leech, but it betrays a (willful?) ignorance 0f the actual practice of research. “Harsh realities,” firm commitments, and consequential decisions happen every day. Do you have any idea how much justification is required to win a research grant? The scientists I encounter work intensely hard and provide world-leading science for astonishingly low cost. The private sector is not magic; there we find crony capitalism, insider trading, padded expense accounts, and outright fraud.

    Claiming scientific research doesn’t have “real market value” only reveals the short-sighted focus of the markets on near-term returns. Our national unwillingness to invest in the future (in necessary infrastructure, research, and smaller, sane entitlements) is the cause of our current woes.

  • Paul

    Sheesh: what exactly is the market value of (say) cosmological knowledge? It’s interesting , I will admit, so it acts as a kind of entertainment, but the cool thing about that kind of knowledge is that we can get the full benefit even if someone else discovers it first.

    This kind of science is not tabletop stuff that can be applied to human needs. When the experiments look at effects that are detectable only across distances of billions of light years, how is that ever going to scale down into a consumer production that will actually affect a person’s life?

    The truth of the matter is that doing this kind of research is a Veblen good, an exercise in conspicuous national consumption. Look everyone (we’re saying), we can afford to spend money on this. Aren’t we superior! It’s a sop to our collective vanity (and individual scientists’ vanities), not something that is worth doing for application payoff.

  • realta fuar

    I don’t really understand many of the folks who comment on this and other science blogs in the States: the “many” being the idiot libertarians, the right wing Obama haters, and those who think science, of all things, shouldn’t be funded by governments. Even the right wingers here (Eire), where the leading political party is a direct descendent of the Irish Fascist party, are no where near that stupid.
    Still, JWST HAS been oversold, HAS been bungled, but still, probably (it’s by no means an easy call ) should be finished. The bungling reminds me of that of the SSC and of the Shuttle program where supposedly responsible and ethical people just purposely lied to your Congress (oh, I forgot about the ISS for a second, oops). Personally, I think it’s pretty clear that 10 Kepler sized missions would produce much more and better science (just not the SAME science) and train many more young investigators. The US has lost its once huge lead in ground based astronomy to Europe because it stopped funding basic, solid science in favor of going for “home-runs” and it appears we now see the same thing happening in terms of space-based science. TMT, Giant Magellan, and E-ELT will likely all be finished , largely because they’re small enough that private contributions can and have played a big role, and because the US won’t want to fall FURTHER behind in ground based astronomy.

  • Paul

    realta: how exactly would the typical american be hurt if we fell further behind in ground based astronomy? Why should he care? If you’re going to make a spinoff argument let me laugh preemptively, and suggest we fund research in less ethereal fields that can provide concrete benefits along with the serendipity.

  • Dutch Railroader

    @paul

    What is the market value of art, movies, theater, sports, literature, and a bazillion other things that we engage in that neither feeds us, shelters us, or can be used to kill someone? People need all of these things. A hunger to understand our origins and place in the Universe is compelling enough so that plenty of us will devote our lives to it so that hugely larger number can satisfy their thirsts as well.

    I was born at the dawn of the space age and grew up with Apollo. For my whole life I’ve felt gifted to be part of a society that values shining light into the dark corners of the unknown. This society says that careers in science and engineering are worth while, and understands “application payoffs” begin elsewhere with those who simply want to know.

    The US has an exceptionally strong scientific and engineering culture that has made us an economic powerhouse. We do these things as a way of maintaining that culture…

    The value of anything is what you put on it. How it affects a person’s life is in how they respond to it. I’ve met so many people in non-academic lines who have a desire to know and understand, and are delighted to be part of a society that gives them and their children a window into the Universe.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    This is bad of course; I love cosmology and astrobiology.

    But the majority of the cost is now “sunk costs”, and a huge fraction of the telescope and instruments actually exist. This is not just a hole that people have been shoveling money into, and not getting anything for — useful stuff is actually built!

    If I understand modern project management, sunk cost is *never* an acceptable argument. And it stands to reason, anything worthwhile would have to prove itself all over again every day.

    At a guess, mentioning it will imply bad management skilz/project understanding and put your favorite project that much closer to the round archive. :-/

  • Albert

    Paul, I am sorry to see that you seem willing to reduce human beings to mere consumers, who can or cannot afford to spend some hard earned dollars to be ‘entertained’ in, say, cosmology. You miss the point about the roughly half of scientific discoveries with practical applications which were not planned, but came about in a serendipity mode. I.e. somebody was asking a question, did some observations or calculations, noticed something odd, followed it up, and out came a completely new way of looking at things, with additional benefits for practical applications. I somehow doubt that light bulbs were invented by dedicated research into the improvement of candle light.

    Look e.g. at the development of the world wide web. The basic idea was (and still is) to provide an easy way to access documents not in a sequential order, but in a non-linear way. I.e. read a story, find a particular idea/concept which is explained in more detail elsewhere, create a link, click on it, study the relevant document, and, after study, resume the main narrative. Luckily, the man who invented it was at a public research outfit, and did not make money out of it: he just has the satisfaction that is works well, and (far) beyond initial expectations and in other domains of life. Ditto for Unix, the C language, NFS, X11, etc.

    Reducing everything in science to immediate applications making money is a reductionist attitude. Since you mention Veblen, I hope that you assimilated the contents of his work on “The Higher Learning In America: A Memorandum On the Conduct of Universities By Business Men”, freely available on the Web. Free enquiry into whatever subject is the core ‘business’ of academic research institutions, as he recognized then. So why should we go backwards for about a century, just to please a political agenda driven by some ‘business men’ ?

  • Pingback: Congress puts NASA and JWST on the chopping block | Bad Astronomy | Discovery()

  • hoot56

    “What is the market value of art, movies, theater, sports, literature, and a bazillion other things…”

    Gee, you just proved the point that you were railing against.

    The market value of art is dictated by the art market (go to a Southeby’s auction to understand this).

    The market value of movies is about $100M for a medium-sized blockbuster.

    The market value of theater is about $100 per ticket for a good one.

    The market value of sports is about $20M/year for LeBron James (minus endorsements).

    The market value of literature is a few $M for a New York Times best seller.

    The market value of a bazillion other things is determined by the market.

    The market value of JWST? Priceless (because there is no market for it).

  • Dutch Railroader

    Pardon me hoot56 – I did not intend to include “market” in my statement, which certainly gives it a vastly different flavor than I intended. The primary value of all of those things are not in some product that we can buy and put to some sort of practical purpose, but in how they help us to understand, enjoy, and make sense of the world. It is in this context that astronomy is worth doing, and for my entire life our society has been willing to fund it because this need is deeply felt and appreciated.

  • hoot56

    Indeed, I understand your point, and I love astronomy, too.

    But, the bigger point is all those other things you mentioned have a market because free human beings have chosen to trade the liquid symbol (dollars) of their productivity for them. If you agree that building JWST takes effort, and if you believe that those expending the effort to build it should be paid, and if you believe that money is needed to pay them, then where should we get that money? Note that in all the other cases you mentioned, the government does not coerce anyone to trade value for value. (By the way, if all these scientists “love” JWST so much, then why don’t they all donate their time for free to work on the mission?)

    Try this, go to a Broadway show just before opening time and ask people in line to give you $100 for JWST instead of going to see the show. See what happens.

    Your argument about something being “deeply felt” is a non starter. Some people think that going to the Super Bowl produces an experience that is “deeply felt,” as does pondering a piece of art, as does eating a sandwich once a week because that is all your unemployed ass can afford, etc.

    So, why is it that JWST should not compete for people’s dollars in a free market like all those other things you mentioned, but rather be funded by government coercion, if it would be so darn “enjoyable” and help so many people “make sense of the world?”

  • Dutch Railroader

    Sorry, but I do not accept your phrase “government coercion,” nor as important as the market is, do I believe that it should serve as the sole arbiter of all things good and worthy. I believe that there are national needs, which includes a robust science and engineering culture, which are best done collectively. You would have never gotten to the moon, by passing the hat in a movie line. We all payed for it, and we’re all better for it. The explosion of the scientific & engineering chops of the US post WWII, was spurred by collective investment of society through its government. This has been a profoundly successful model, and I see no other way that it could have happened.

    (With regards to JWST, HST, and all other missions, there is an immense volunteer contribution made by astronomers not funded by NASA.)

  • Brian Too

    @Parasites In Academia,

    I have to say that I’m not digging your tone. You decided to drop the entire cohorts of academia, science and “Hollywood” into the derisive category of “leftists”. If you had any allies in those fields you’ve now offended them.

    Your meandering points on billionaires and philanthropists are disjointed, way off topic and full of too many errors and internal contradictions to even bother with. I imagine your screed on taxation and government is more motivated by personal factors. So why the fixation on billionaires? You aren’t a billionaire are you? That seems unlikely.

    Even your screen name is designed to offend. And yet you claim tens of millions of like-minded people. Here’s an organizational principle: a room full of angry cats does not automatically produce useful group action, despite their common feline nature and ill temper.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    Interesting priorities the American government has, can’t spend a few billion on an awesome telescope but can spend a few hundred billion on unnecessary weapon systems. Hey, you have the most formidable military on earth, and not buying the latest gadgets and gizmo’s won’t change that. Contact your congressman and senators, peace needs money too.

  • Ijon Tichy

    I should add that the thing that worries me about JWT is not the optics and what happens after we get the first image, but the time period from launch to first image. If something goes wrong, that’s where I think it will go wrong, and if it goes wrong in that time period, it will likely be unfixable. Well, it may be I’m paranoid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SaveJWST Victor Garcia

    Save the JWST! Join the facebook group! The house appropriations committee wants to *cancel* it!

  • Pingback: Congress puts NASA and JWST on the chopping block | Space Travels - Space Turism()

  • YUGI

    while others are funding billion dollarS, others are starving to death and living from very unpredictable Earth.

    by the way…

    “If JWST were cancelled, it would be a heavy blow to the US dominance in running true space-based observatories” what does it mean?

  • Anonymous_Snowboarder

    @julianne: while everything you say about the need for the JWST may be true – will it not still be true 10, 20 30 years from now? What you have not been able to argue is what harm is done to (American) society by delaying this project? In the big picture, would it matter if it were to launch in say.. 2035 instead of 2018? Or more to the point – would it matter if we waited until we could afford it? Also, sunk costs should never factor into the decision whether to keep a project (or factory) going.

  • http://slackwire.blogspot.com/ JW Mason

    What a depressing comment thread. You’d think people who read Cosmic Variance love science. But it seems they mostly love their libertarian fantasies more. Like those Vikings in Greenland who thought eat fish was beneath them and starved to death when their cattle died, there seem to be a lot of Americans who believe that if science involves the public sector, it’s better to remain ignorant. Sad.

  • Pingback: The practice does not invalidate the principle | Gene Expression | Discover Magazine()

  • realta fuar

    @Dutch Railroader and JW Mason: thanks, I fully agree with your positions on these matters.
    I’ve found I just don’t have the heart much any more to argue with the, essentially, anti-intellectual libertarians whose minds were made up for them when they read their god Rand when they were impresionable 19 year olds. They can’t stop complaining about their taxes when they pay less than pretty much anywhere in the industrialized world. Feck ‘em all.

  • MikeFromHC

    Great video and we do need the telescope but I take exception to the idea that it will be of no use on earth. while perhaps not as great as the early days of NASA when spin-offs filled books with inventions we still benefit from, chances are that “one shot to get it right” mentality has created something new that may make millions someday.
    And there is always the chance that something will show up that will cause some scientist to say “Hmmm, I wonder…”. Pure research has a tendency to produce stuff.

  • Doug

    “This is not just a hole that people have been shoveling money into, and not getting anything for — useful stuff is actually built! And working! I would of course prefer that JWST launched on time and under budget, but, given how close we are to the end, I much prefer to go for it.”

    With all due respect for JWST, and the wonderful science it would produce, the “sunk cost” argument is hard to accept. There’s a good chance that the “end” is a decade off. We’re close to the end? Nope. Sorry. We’re not.

    It pains me to see that JWST is probably going to kill off any remaining credibility the astronomical community has with flagship mission development. There were a number of such exciting missions that had been proposed, but I suspect they are all pipe dreams now. It will be a LONG time before NASA wants to do something this ambitious again. Perhaps a decadal survey could cogently argue for such flagship missions, but this last one did not. The survey committee is probably now whacking themselves on the head for making presumptions about the success of JWST that are now clearly unfounded. The ball will be in the court of the next survey committee, in a decade, to decide how to competently market arguments for a new flagship mission. Given the thin and lame arguments that have come out of the American Astronomical Society in response to the threat on JWST, I am not optimistic. Perhaps the silver lining on this cloud is that the astronomy community will have to get serious about publicly digestable rationale for large space telescopes. No, “leadership”, “jobs for astronomers”, and “STEM education” isn’t that rationale. That may have cut it a decade ago, but it isn’t going to cut it now.

  • Nick

    > First and foremost, in many fields of astronomy we are rapidly approaching the limit of what can be done scientifically without JWST.

    Wrong. Examples
    JWST can’t do what WISE did: an all-sky IR survey.
    JWST can’t do all-sky astrometry.
    JWST can’t do interferometry.

    On another note, by 2018 launch date JWST detectors will be obsolete.

    Yet another angle: since JWST is one-of-a-kind, no backup or immediate successo planned, what are we going to do if something vitally important would break on JWST in 2020?

  • Pingback: Астрономия за неделю. 4 — 10 июля 2011()

  • Pingback: Neil Degrasse Tyson On Whats Next For The Space Program()

  • Pingback: Don’t Cancel the Webb Telescope! | Of Particular Significance()

  • http://www.uforeport.co.uk Graham

    These are hard times and clearly somethings will have to go but if you sacrifice science and advancing human knowledge you are in fact sacrificing your future. Who can say what discoveries will be made that will have major impacts on future genertions?

    This period in US space exploration is seeing a decline with the consignment of the shuttle to the museums and the US having to totally rely on other countries to both ferry crew and supplies to the ISS. This is frankly embarassing. Now we hear that the JWST is to be cancelled, cancelled because the US has run out of money? But the truth is that the money has gone to prop up a badly managed banking system and to pay bonuses to over paid (gambling) bankers.

    The difference between spendng the money on the JWST and the banking system is that one is investment in the future while the other is paying for mistakes in the past. There is nothing new to be learned by spending billions of dollars on the disfunctional banking system but a huge amount can be learned from the JWST. Spending billions on failed banks will not inspire the young to study and discover the new science that will lead to the next generation of technology from which new jobs could be created. Spending the money on the JWST will inspire the young and stimulate education, something badly lacking now in the US.

    Given that the JWST will benefit the whole world, as Hubble has done, then perhaps the additional cost to complete the project should be shared by Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India …etc… worth asking anyway.

  • Pingback: James Webb Space Telescope Closer to the Axe : Discovery News « Ye Olde Soapbox()

  • jplengr

    I think we should continue the effort and launch it. The amount of money is a trivial percentage of our national budget. Mankind MUST always climb the mountain because it’s there. We elevate (no pun intended) ourselves by this characteristic. To not complete it is to stop in mid-climb and return to the jungle below.

  • Jimmo

    Although I support such a project for future generations to benefit, and I would like to see it to fruition but,where do we draw the line on waste? Obviously, more realistic costs should have been projected! Maybe a lesson will be learned here? This is such an exciting program, but I hope we can pick-up later with better management. It is sad to know we cannot afford all programs.

  • Pingback: James Webb Space Telescope Closer to the Axe()

  • Daniel de França MTd2

    Dear Julianne,

    Couldn’t the launch of JWST be made in stages? Like this:

    1. Lauch JWST to Low Earth Orbit.
    2. Dock it to ISS and make the mirrors disassemble, supervised by technicians.
    3. Install an ion propulsion engine and send it slowly to its destination. Unlike the time when JWST started being projected, propulsion methods that use Ions are very well developed and reliable. For example, Dawn probe is arriving today at Vesta without any problems with its propulsion during its 4 year travel!

    Wouldn’t these 3 steps save a lot of years of testing and make JWST ready to launch in less than 2 years and thereby saving a lot of money and making almost 100% sure that it wold work?

    Best,

    Daniel.

  • Pingback: decrease the such and increase the awesome « sandgestein()

  • Pingback: Nachrichten von Weltraum-Teleskopen kompakt « Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null()

  • hoot56

    I have first-hand knowledge of how the astronomical community “let” this happen and how the costs ballooned in the first place.

    First, leaders in the astronomical community went along with the ridiculous cost estimates and the waste because they felt that any bad news for JWST would jeopardize the mission and there was no way that the budget could be used to fund other missions anyway (notice that they are still saying we should save the mission because of this same logic).

    I heard this sentiment over and over and over during the past 10 years of the project. Also, one of the official astronomy “watchdogs” over the mission, STScI, repeatedly told their employees to look the other way as GSFC squandered project money by having everyone and their mother charge the JWST project code in a series of endless engineering meetings on designs that were going to have to be redone by the real builders down the road (the contractors). We were told, “this is the way great missions get built, if you can’t stand to see sausage get made, then go do something else.” This reminds me of the bankers who were handcuffed in the perp-walk on TV, explaining, “Well, everybody was doing this, so it must be ok.”

  • http://www.sandeepdmisra.wordpress.com Sandeep Deba Misra

    JWST is one of the most important project in the history of not only physics, but also science. As we know, HST had created history by opening new window for us to study the whole universe. Now JWST will be further more powerful than HST. So it’ll really give us a whole new perspective to view our universe. It’s performance will be much more than that of HST. So JWST is really an important mission.
    I agree that JWST is very costly & its a major problem for NASA to fund it fully anytime soon because it has to fund other missions too. But US can fund for it if it tries little bit more. Because science projects (especially space programs & particle accelerators) only take less than one tenth of a percent of world GDP!! Think of it for a moment. It is less than one tenth of a percent. Though it seems that science programs are very costly, its less than one tenth of a percent. Science programs, not only space programs, will affect our way of living. Instead of wasting money in other unimportant programs, its better to put our economy in such programs which will shape our future. To read further on why its better to put our economy in research & development, read this article – http://sandeepdmisra.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/it-would-be-fruitful-to-put-a-significant-percent-of-our-economy-in-research-development/ To read further on why space programs are so significant to us for survival, read these articles – http://sandeepdmisra.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/space-our-next-home-i/ & http://sandeepdmisra.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/space-our-next-home-ll/
    Such critical conditions appear everywhere. We’ve to overcome this. And I know humanity will solve this problem. Victory to science!!

    Warm Regards,
    Sandeep Deba Misra.
    Secondary School Student, Kendriya Vidyalaya Barpeta.
    Founder of Quantum Time Theory.
    Founder of Life-Entropy Theory.
    Founder of 4 Laws Of Technological Singularity.
    Author of The Blog SANDEEP’S COSMOS.
    http://www.sandeepdmisra.wordpress.com.
    http://www.actaphysica.com/members/sandeep/
    http://www.twitter.com/sandeepdmisra.
    http://www.facebook.com/sandeepdebamisra

    ABOUT: Sandeep Deba Misra (29 January 1998 -) is an Indian secondary school student studying in class-VIII of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Barpeta. Sandeep is a budding astrophysicist, founder of Quantum Time Theory, founder of Life-Entropy Theory, founder of 4 Laws Of Technological Singularity, author of blog SANDEEP’S COSMOS & several other articles

  • Dirk

    “It pains me to see that JWST is probably going to kill off any remaining credibility the astronomical community has with flagship mission development.”

    Yes.

    My instinct is to support the JWST but the lame arguments in this post and from the commenters turns me away. The same people (and NASA) support the space shuttle and the ISS—apparently anything in space is good, and any piece of pork can be justified so long as it is less than 1% of the federal budget. No.

  • JAMES WEBB

    if you want to figure out FUSION to power our future you better study where it started! gitter done!

    BRING IN INTERNATIONAL FUNDING, THE FUSION KNOWLEDGE WILL POWER ALL OF US FOR 1000 YRS! EASILY!!!comment 81 may save billions :) methods need study!

  • JAMES WEBB

    bytheway could we power the space station out there also? [no joke] this would be a logical common sense objective [ alternative] to dropping it somewhere on earth! perhaps cheaper than reentry and building the next one? :)

  • Pingback: Neil deGrasse Tyson „We Stopped Dreaming“ : misterhonk.de()

  • Pingback: Hubble’s successor: doomed or saved? | Space Travels - Space Turism()

  • Pingback: Call to Action to Save JWST()

  • HUBBLE

    haha faggot this is hubbleill kik ur ass any day 1v1 me fggt. hahaha u poop kid.

  • HUBBLE

    NEEERRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

    I bet u dunt get psdsdY haha FAG. ILL FUCKIN REK U N TAKE UR GIRLRLLRRLLRRLRLLRLLLRRLRL.

    KEEP CERYIN NIGGALIPS I KNOW YOU’RE DICKBALBUTT MUM IS GETTIN A BONER !!!!! xD

  • HUBBLE

    haha my dick gettin lict will power us for 9000 years le epic troll face xDDDDD

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »