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Friday, July 8, 2011

JWST on the Chopping Block: AAS Weighs In

As I previously posted, it looks like the James Webb Space Telescope faces an uphill battle just to avoid the scrap heap.  Today the American Astronomical Society released a statement on the proposed cancellation of JWST.  To no one's surprise, the statement is strongly in favor of continuing JWST, making the argument that "Too many taxpayer dollars have already been spent to cancel the mission now; its benefits far outweigh the remaining costs", in addition to the more standard arguments about preserving jobs, maintaining America's leadership in space technologies, and the benefits to scientific research.

Essentially, I think the single most compelling argument for JWST is the "only way out is through" line of thinking.  We've already spent over $3 billion on this thing, so we're pretty heavily invested.  Additionally, the Hubble Space Telescope was 7 years late, cost three times as much as projected, and has been worth every penny, so there is precedent for this sort of situation working out well in the end.

3 comments:

  1. Upon further investigation I have read several comments from people who have worked directly with the project and they all have stories of severe mismanagement. There are stories about engineering nightmares associated with building it. On the one hand having seen and been part of developing hardware for research application it sounds like standard operating procedure. On the other hand it is slightly concerning that there have been so many problems with it. It's like, "Didn't you guys learn anything from Hubble?"

    Even though there might be problems, the JWST would be beneficial and we really should see it through.

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  2. I had a chance to talk with one of the instrumentation guys for JWST at Goddard a few months back and he was quite negative about the project management, but also said that the management of JWST is pretty much par for the course for flagship missions (he specifically mentioned Hubble and Chandra) at NASA.  He also mentioned that absolutely nobody thought the original $1.8 billion budget was realistic, but that the prevailing mode of operation at the time was to low ball the cost in order to get approved and then come back asking for more once a big chunk had already been spent.  This was the same logic that was used on the Orion crew vehicle, by the way.

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