As the pieces of the James Webb Space Telescope – the next-gen replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope – come together, there's plenty of excitement in the astronomy community, but as Nature reports, there is plenty of anxiety as well. Webb, scheduled for launch in 2014, simply has to work. The massive observatory that promises to look back through the universe to the formation of the first galaxies has swelled to such expense that it has swallowed the budgets for other science instruments whole. If Webb fails, astronomical science could be set back a generation.
Webb's price tag currently sits at about $5 billion, a bit of a cost overrun from the original $500 million to $1 billion cost estimated when Webb was conceived as Hubble's successor almost two decades ago. The project keeps going back to the well, asking for an additional $95 million in 2009 and $20 million more this year. It has requested another $60 million for next year, and no one knows if that's where the budgetary bleeding will end for 2011. Or for 2012 or 2013 for that matter.
Part of the reason for the rampant cost overruns stems from the fact that Webb is truly a magnificent science machine, sporting all kinds of complex instrumentation that – if it works – will make great leaps for astronomy. But researchers – seeing their one chance in a decade or two to get the kind of research equipment they want launched to a Lagrange point almost a million miles from Earth – have piled on the complexity. For every expensive instrument, Webb needs more expensive safeguards to ensure the instruments can survive the harsh conditions of space.
Those costs overruns have eaten away at other missions' budgets, grounding missions like the Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope until after Webb launches. There's simply not enough cash to go around. Meaning that if Webb fails to live up to expectations – or worse, fails completely – there aren't a bunch of other science missions on deck to keep astronomy moving forward. Given the fact that in the next five years most (if not all) of NASA's 14 main telescopes will be decommissioned, failure by the Web mission could leave a gaping void in the continuity of space science, effectively setting the field back a decade or longer while new observatories can be prepared and launched.
Well if I was rich and owned a large corporation I would be spending some pocket change to help these people out. In return I would love to have a galaxy named after me!!
Call Bill Gates. He can afford it. But sorry he will want the galaxy named after him and not you!
Obama failed when he gave 700 billions to privates companies instead of sciences project like these.
your stupid, galaxies dont exist, only the earth, heaven and the underworld, which will all be named after me when i rule everything. ill name a big rock after you
Isn't there a way to test it before they launch? After launch it will be too late and too expensive won't it? Why not make sure it works before throwing it out into space?
Obviously they'll run countless tests and simulations before launch. Once the telescope is launched, it will no longer be reachable. Unlike the Hubble, they can't just mount a 100 million dollar repair mission for the James Webb. If the telescope fails, it will be a major setback for all of science. The project MUST work, or they'd be hell to pay.
Maybe I'm naïve, or perhaps I harbor too much faith... I just can't see this turning into the scientific flop of the century that this article premonishes. However, heads will most certainly roll if it does. It would beget such dire heartbreak to have invested so much time and so many resources, all for naught.
I bet if they had stuck to the original design, the Webb would be on-budget and already up in space. All these large-scale projects suffer from "evolving requirements" that lead to costly re-designing and re-testing. I bet that three $1-billion satellites could have covered everything that this $5-billion machine will do.
All these large scale project suffer from evolving requirements that when Webb was conceived as Hubble's successor almost done it.
I'd like to use it.
How to use it?
I only have some experience to use small ground telescope. Thats all.
Itll be only launched for public usage?
When amateur astronomer use it?
"Unlike the Hubble, they can't just mount a 100 million dollar repair mission for the James Webb. "
Well, what would it cost? At $5B and counting invested already, how much more is it worth throwing at it to get it operational? What if it was $1B? Is spending another $1B to fix it crazier than abandoning $5B?
Well, considering that nasa f-ed up hubble's mirror the first time around. I wont be holding my breath until i see it working. and if it isn't, they'd better go and fix it, otherwise it's a total waste.
this thing is going to add more to mans over all knowledge of the universe than any other experiment, lab, or satellite we have. As it is Hubble has been amazing. This thing is supposed to make hubble look like childs play.
The funny thing. once this thing is launched they have to start planning the next successor the very next day because it takes 25 years to get these things payed for and built.
Ok, I love the universe and all, but what really differentiates the Webb and Hubble? Unless this new telescope can zoom in to ground level of one of those exo-planets we've been hearing so much about, I would suspect $5 billion is a little bit to much money to spend. NASA is pretty much our little spoiled brat child that gets what ever it asks for. I hope I'm wrong.
It is a pity that they aren't planning any automated refueling missions. It will take a fair bit of fuel to maintain an L2 orbit , as it is not a stable orbit location. It will also run out of coolant, as the sun-shield isn't perfect.
So this telescope will have a finite working life, after that it will be just another piece of space junk. It will still have been worthwhile.
The Hubble telescope unlocked so much about the universe that we know today. Imagine what a more modern powerful telescope will let us see.
Waffles? I think you mean carrots.
JWST will undoubtably pay for itself in scientific data, whether or not it shows us another "Big Blue Marble" like ours (as long as it is sucessful). For some of us, it may be the last (& greatest) science mission we get to see in this lifetime. Too bad we getting information from an independent review board that it will likely be delayed a year & cost an additional $1.5 billion. I think it still will be worth the money and wait, especially if it means the difference between sucess and failure.