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James Web Space Telescope  (Source: Discovery News)
Hubble's replacement could be killed after years and billions invested

It has been a very long time since the project to replace the Hubble Space Telescope with a new and higher tech device began. Like many other projects that NASA has been working on and projects at other government sponsored facilities, things are under the knife as Washington seeks to cut every ounce of fat from the budget for next year.

One of the projects that NASA is running is the replacement for the Hubble called the James Web Space Telescope. The JWST was unveiled back in May of 2007 and at the time, it was said that the program had met technical and cost schedules for the previous 20 months of development. Somewhere between 2007 and today the program went significantly off course and has come under the knives of politicians looking to trim more budgetary fat.

Discovery News reports that last week the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee recommend that the JWST program be cancelled. Yesterday the full House Science, Space, and Technology committee approved the subcommittee's plans to cancel the program.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made a plea to the committee to keep the JWST alive at the last minute. Bolden said, "I have tried to explain what I think is the importance of James Webb, in terms of opening new horizons far greater than we got from Hubble. I would only say that for about the same cost as Hubble in real-year dollars, we'll bring James Webb into operation."

An amendment to the budget that would have sent another $200 million to the project was voted down. So far the JWST has gobbled up $3 billion and all of that money will be lost if the project is cancelled. The program is estimated to cost $6.8 billion when complete so the cancellation would save over $3 billion.

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Good Idea...
By Goty on 7/14/2011 1:16:30 PM , Rating: 5
Sure, let's cut the JWST and thereby not only kill the largest single upcoming instrument for astronomical research but also completely destroy the United States' already lagging leadership in the field, not to mention potentially putting any number of researchers in a bind because they've pinned all of their work on the results the JWST can provide.

RE: Good Idea...
By tng on 7/14/2011 1:48:20 PM , Rating: 3
You say that like our congress really knows (or cares) what the image of the US in in the space and exploration field is. Even for the congress members on the science committee, if it has no benefit back in their specific home district they don't care about it.

RE: Good Idea...
By kleinma on 7/14/2011 2:23:22 PM , Rating: 3
They will care when China colonizes the moon and points lasers at the US because we were too stupid to keep things moving along in space while other nations are pumping in billions and billions and riding off the success of all previous nasa research (not to mention what was probably classified and stolen).

Nasa budget is way way too small, they could chip off a tiny piece of the defense budget and double nasas.

RE: Good Idea...
By quiksilvr on 7/14/2011 3:03:59 PM , Rating: 1
I think you got your tin-foil hat on too tight. The key is to mold it to the shape if you head BEFORE applying the clear plastic coating, not after.

RE: Good Idea...
By geddarkstorm on 7/14/2011 3:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely right. They wouldn't use lasers, which the atmosphere would attenuate, but rather kinetic weapons.

RE: Good Idea...
By tng on 7/14/2011 4:34:15 PM , Rating: 3
kinetic weapons
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?

RE: Good Idea...
By Fritzr on 7/14/2011 9:16:04 PM , Rating: 2
Please remove that ridge :P

RE: Good Idea...
By The Raven on 7/18/2011 3:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
lol you fearmonger about us needing a better defense against Chinese space lasers and then you suggest that we should cut the defense budget...

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to... shucks I can't do it ;-)

But seriously, if China started thinking of something like that, we could easily get an fleet up in the air. Especially if the cost is as cheap as you suggest.

RE: Good Idea...
By Masospaghetti on 7/14/2011 2:24:35 PM , Rating: 5
Yep...Congress is only willing to trim fat when it doesn't directly affect their constituents.

So wasteful entitlement programs that either don't belong in the first place or are riddled with fraud remain, because they generate legions of dependents that continue to vote, and actual useful programs like the James Webb telescope are axed. One of the fields that the government REALLY needs to intervene, because the private sector would never find it profitable to launch a space telescope.

The return on investment for a scientific instrument, such as this, is enormous, but the benefit is diluted too much for any one entity to find it profitable. Hence why the government needs to do it.

The US is well on its way to becoming a 2nd tier nation.

RE: Good Idea...
By Jedi2155 on 7/14/2011 10:49:46 PM , Rating: 3
I plan on contacting my Congressman/women and Senators regarding this issue. Space science brought me into engineering, and served as a great motivator for me. I am currently not involved in any way with the space program but I still love it so please. If you really care about the program, spend the time to contact your representatives.

By MrTeal on 7/14/2011 12:46:58 PM , Rating: 4
The $6.8B figure is the LCC, the total life cycle cost, and that includes the money after it's been launched.

Here's a quote from the NASA report.

2. Executive Summary
The problems causing cost growth and schedule delays on the JWST Project are associated with budgeting and program management, not technical performance. The technical performance on the Project has been commendable and often excellent. However, the budget baseline accepted at the Confirmation Review did not reflect the most probable cost with adequate reserves in each year of project execution. This resulted in a project that was simply not executable within the budgeted resources.

The estimate to complete the JWST Project at Confirmation was understated for two reasons. First, the budget presented by the Project at Confirmation was flawed because it was not based upon a current bottoms-up estimate and did not include the known threats1. As a result of poor program and cost control practices, the Project failed to develop a reasonable cost and schedule baseline.

Second, the reserves provided were too low because they were established against a baseline budget that was too low, and in addition, because of budget constraints, were too low in the year of Confirmation and the year following (less than 20%) the two highest expenditure years. Leadership at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and NASA Headquarters failed to independently analyze the JWST Project’s performance and recognize the flawed baseline. The reserve situation was recognized as a problem at the time, as was a degree of optimism in the integration and test (I&T) budget, which prompted NASA management to change the baseline launch date from June 2013 to June 2014 and to add extra reserves in the out years. Unaware of how badly understated the JWST Budget2 was, NASA management thought there was a 70% probability of launching in June 2014 at a total lifecycle cost of nearly $5 billion with the Confirmation budget profile. In fact, the Project had no chance of meeting either the schedule or the budget profile.

Another contributing factor was that in balancing the overall astrophysics program, the Astrophysics Division did not allocate the full funding amount needed to execute the Project. This might have required shifting resources from other programs within the Division. If this was not within its budgeting authority, the Division should have gone on record to the SMD and Agency management that its portfolio was not executable. Instead, the Division accepted the Project’s continuing practice of deferring work and accepted the consequence of continued cost and schedule growth.

JWST is over-budget due to a very over-optimistic initial budget and the refusal to accept that it needed to be changed. However, the project itself is going very well. The $3B already spent has not been wasted, it's been to design and produce what will once operational be an incredibly fruitful scientific instrument. Spitzer is already out of coolant, and while still capable it isn't able to do all the science it once was. Once Hubble's orbit deteriorates in the next few years, there will be a huge gap in observational capacity.

From the start of the project to the end of SM-1 (when they installed COSTAR to fix the misground mirror), Hubble cost $5.8B in FY2010 dollars (ref. same document). If anything, they should find the upper management who somehow thought that the 6.5m multisegmented JWST in the L2 point 1.5M km away would have a total LCC of $3.5B when the LCC of the 2.4m monolithic Hubble cost $5.8B just to get into orbit and have the first servicing mission performed, and fire them.

RE: $6.8B
By quiksilvr on 7/14/2011 1:01:04 PM , Rating: 4
Upper management constantly low balls estimates and throw in the real costs later on. It's just how federal budgets are done.

Is it stupid? Yes.

Is it necessary to convince idiot investors that have no ideal of orbital mechanics? Yes.

RE: $6.8B
By JediJeb on 7/14/2011 1:07:35 PM , Rating: 2
What I have never understood about Congress on things like this is that even if the budget this year needs to be cut, why cancel a project and more or less throw away money already spent when they could put a one year hold on it instead? Why not put in the appropriations bill that this would be defunded for one year with it automatically being returned to the budget next year?

If I spent a bunch of money building a house and ran out of money when I only needed to put in windows, siding and the interior, I would never just walk away from that investment and let it fall apart. I would put in just enough to keep it alive until I could fund the completion. But I guess most of Congress has so much money themselves they would not think of just throwing it away, because if they ever need more they just vote themselves a raise at the expense of everything else. With all this budget wrangling going on I have yet to see them suggest a pay cut for Congress and the President.

RE: $6.8B
By MrTeal on 7/14/2011 1:13:24 PM , Rating: 5
It doesn't work like that, I'm afraid. You have fixed costs on labs, employees, facilities. You can't just take all the parts and store them in a shed in the back, or tell the employees that there's no money in the budget to pay you this year, so some of you can go work over here, and some of you take a year off and we'll see you in the next fiscal year. It gets even more complicated when working with contractors.

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, the way to get the lowest total cost is to raise the budget to where it should have been in the first place. You can spend say $500M for the next 4 years and then launch, or $400M for the next 6 years, or $300M for the next 10. Either way it would get up there, but it's cheaper and gets done faster if you just bite the bullet and fund it properly.

RE: $6.8B
By JediJeb on 7/14/2011 2:06:22 PM , Rating: 3
I guess some private group should pickup the project and finish it then recover the cost by selling time on it for research, which of course would be paid for by grants from the government. That way the government still pays for it just in a more wasteful drawn out way. That would make Congress totally giddy since it is exactly what they like to do.

RE: $6.8B
By Jaybus on 7/15/2011 2:13:28 PM , Rating: 2
They know they have to make cuts. The main concern, when making cuts, is not pissing off the wrong people. NASA gets beat up during budget cuts simply because less people are immediately affected. Cuts in entitlement programs are potentially disastrous, not sometime in the future due to lack of technical progress, but right now, due to angry protestors/voters. Disastrous, of course, meaning that they would be unlikely to remain in office.

By qdemn7 on 7/14/2011 2:00:59 PM , Rating: 2
So we cancelled the Super Conducting Super Collider, (to cut those EVUL taxes and EVUL Big Government) and now we no longer have the lead in high energy physics. That has passed the Large Hadron Collider because the EU is willing to spend the money on basic research.

And these these self-same idiots who complain about taxes being too high, and government spending too much money will still crow about American Exceptionalism" and "America being the greatest country on Earth."

By FITCamaro on 7/14/2011 2:09:26 PM , Rating: 2
Actually most conservatives support things like this. There would be plenty of money for them if it wasn't wasted ensuring people had no incentive to find work for two years, paying people to have kids, etc.

Because the research benefits the private sector as well.

By tng on 7/14/2011 4:32:57 PM , Rating: 2
Because the research benefits the private sector as well.
Since the early 60's NASA research for the various space programs has resulted in numerous advancements that have made our lives better, no doubt. Yet there are those out there in positions of power who feel that the money should be spent "here on Earth where it will help people".

By Belard on 7/14/2011 10:19:44 PM , Rating: 2
Well, perhaps you'll lose your job too... and see how it feels?

There are millions of Americans looking for work. if nobody is hiring, then how are they going to get jobs? The TAX breaks that corp American got turn into NO NEW JOBS.

There are no longer conservatives. What are you talking about?
There are only Teabagger & religious nuts.

By Solandri on 7/15/2011 1:44:57 AM , Rating: 2
I lost my job. I didn't use unemployment. I had saved over the previous years instead of going on the spending binge I guess everyone else was on. At the time it seemed like the country was in dire straits and didn't need another person on the dole, so I used my own savings to tide me over.

Was I stupid to pass up "free money"? Let me answer that with a famous quote by a hero to those who now seem to consider handouts to be the government's #1 priority: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

By pandemonium on 7/15/2011 1:56:23 AM , Rating: 2
Millions of jobs being lost is completely dependent upon the fact that the American Corporate machine employs cheap labor oversees and the lack of US government regulations on smoothing lower to upper class. Highly technical jobs, like what NASA and the thousands of companies that supply to what NASA provides, only improves the position of where the US economy stands opposed to other countries. Cancelling anything NASA is doing is fail, regardless of the level of completion a project in.

Cancelling this program will be another scar forcing me to move out of the US.

Is it April 1st already?
By Alchemy69 on 7/14/2011 2:17:48 PM , Rating: 3
Can somebody explain the logic of cancelling a project that's already 80% complete. I'm not sure that NASA gives refunds.

RE: Is it April 1st already?
By geddarkstorm on 7/14/2011 3:22:46 PM , Rating: 3
Remember Constellation? Yeah, me neither.

RE: Is it April 1st already?
By TSS on 7/14/2011 10:04:39 PM , Rating: 2
It's quite logical. Congress is filled with idiots and the idiots who put them there are too busy worrying who'll be the next idol superstar holiday dancing on ice masterchef of America. Thus they can do whatever the hell they like.

Honestly. If you guys let the james webb telescope get canceled i'll have no more respect for NASA at all, no matter how many SUV's you send to mars. That thing will be as important as hubble was. If you cancel it, your basically saying NASA isn't important anymore.

Oh well
By Ben on 7/15/2011 5:48:12 AM , Rating: 3
At least we'll all have free health care, until the meteor that we didn't see wipes us out.

RE: Oh well
By Goty on 7/15/2011 11:12:54 AM , Rating: 2
It's funny you should mention that, since the LSST, which would help hunt for killer asteroids, is also on the chopping block.

I agree with congress
By Yaos on 7/14/11, Rating: 0
RE: I agree with congress
By ClownPuncher on 7/14/2011 1:44:58 PM , Rating: 4
If we bomb the middle east to glass, we can then use the glass for the lens in the telescope.

But NASA gets almost nothing...
By Belard on 7/14/2011 10:31:07 PM , Rating: 1
NASA's budget is very very small, compared to... the military, etc.

Small bases out in the middle of Afghanistan and Iraq, in order to setup, operate and support air-conditioning for our troops (who by all means, needs it)... their budget is BIGGER than NASA!

Yep, they spend $20 billion a year to cool tents and at the cost of upwards of 1000 lives (road bombs) to keep them operational.

Learning about our place in the universe isn't important? Oh yeah, everything we need to know is in a book written by dozed of guys who wiped their butts with their hands, leaves or dirt... if at all.

By Jedi2155 on 7/14/2011 11:05:10 PM , Rating: 2
I also hear they get lobster dinners from time to time...

By dotpoz on 7/15/2011 4:32:06 AM , Rating: 2
So is better to spend $20 billion/year on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan (more than the whole NASA budget)!

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.”

Albert Einstein

good idea
By barniclebill on 7/19/2011 2:06:30 PM , Rating: 2
If it will help preserve my SS check and my medicare: my only income for the rest of my life. Then cancel the space telescope. I would rather be able to buy groceries than look at photos of space objects.

By vciucxx on 7/16/2011 11:00:20 PM , Rating: 1

I tide fashion
not expensive
Free transport

By rangrangang on 7/14/11, Rating: -1
"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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