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Stargazing Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with hammers

  1. Jul 7, 2011 #1
    3CleV.jpg

    Or it might as well be, the result would be the same. Dennis Overbye in the NY Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/science/07webb.html" [Broken]


    According to this article (found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Webb_Space_Telescope" [Broken]), the project cost ballooned from $1.6 billion to a current $6.8 billion, which I would imagine made it a conspicuous target.

    http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20110605/NEWS01/110604013/Telescope-debacle-devours-NASA-funds" [Broken]

    According to this NASA budget, spending on James Webb in 2010 was $439 million, compared with spending on frivolous nonsense such as $3.3 billion for "Human Exploration Capabilities", $3.1 billion for the Space Scuttle, and $2.3 billion for the International Space Westin.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/516674main_NASAFY12_Budget_Estimates-Overview-508.pdf" [Broken]
     
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  3. Jul 7, 2011 #2
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    Drunks with hammers? You mean the NASA folks that floundered several billion dollars? (and want more)

    It's tragic that the telescope may be cancelled, but the fault isn't that of Congress (unless there's some directives they gave which caused price bloating that I don't know about). I find it very interesting that the NYT article doesn't give the total price tag or reasons which would let congress off the hook, but instead focuses on the 'tragedy for cosmology' with as few facts as possible in an attempt to indict congress.

    The Florida Today piece you linked had a segment which I think describes it accurately:

     
  4. Jul 7, 2011 #3

    Born2bwire

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    Yeah, as much as I hate seeing scientific research funding being cut, we can't reward such inextricably bad management here. The bottom line is that this is a program that has overrun its originally approved budget by 425%. Look at it this way, they originally thought they could do this on a budget X. What other kinds of projects can be done with $X? Continuing to fund this project means we've lost funding for 3 of those projects. Not that I'm under the illusion that Congress would give up the extra money regardless but the point is that there are limited funds and we need to start thinking about what projects are really worth putting money into.
     
  5. Jul 7, 2011 #4

    Mech_Engineer

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    $6.8 billion is a truly monumental amount of money to be applied on a single project in science... It seems pretty amazing to me that this single telescope would cost that much money- the entire National Ignition Facility cost less than 5 billion!

    Imagine the size of a ground-based telescope array that could be built for 6.8 billion, the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overwhelmingly_Large_Telescope" [Broken] was estimated to cost around $2.1bil in a feasability study, maybe we should build 3 of them with money to spare?
     
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  6. Jul 7, 2011 #5
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    But are those fair comparisons? Hubble cost $1.5 billion at launch ($2.5 billion inflation-adjusted), and $10 billion over its entire program.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/09/us/telescope-is-set-to-peer-at-space-and-time.html?pagewanted=all

    http://www.npr.org/2011/06/08/137040818/scientists-undeterred-by-hubble-successors-costs


    Aren't space telescopes supposed to be one of the top priorities of NASA, in terms of actual science? James Webb suffered ugly project mismanagement, but then so do most government megaprojects. The Space Shuttle cost $196 billion. The ISS cost ~$100 billion, and it'll be deorbited as soon as it is completed.

    http://articles.boston.com/2011-07-05/news/29739531_1_shuttle-program-deputy-nasa-administrator-hans-mark [Broken]

    http://www.space.com/9435-international-space-station-worth-100-billion.html

    If there's prioritizing to be done, I say eliminate all human projects and spend on actual science.
     
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  7. Jul 7, 2011 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    How large a cost overrun should be tolerated before throwing in the towel? $1B? $10B? $100B? At some point you have to draw a line.

    JWST's cost overuns alone would allow one to launch two more Hubbles (with good mirrirs this time) and three more Spitzers. And $6.8B is optimistic - assuming a 2018 launch. Make it 2020 or 2021 and it will be $8B or 8.5B.

    Put another way, the JWST overruns have already cost the space program MAX-C and LISA, and put the final nail in the coffin of the Terrestrial Planet Finder. It is about to cost us the Jupiter Europa Orbiter and quite possibly a Uranus orbiter. It is putting WFIRST (the last surviving top priority project) in a very precarious position, in part because the WFIRST proposed cost is exactly that of the JWST proposed cost.
     
  8. Jul 7, 2011 #7
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    On the one hand:
    While it is awful that the money has been so mismanaged, once the management is fired how would continuing the project be rewarding mismanagement? The money spent so far is a sunk cost and shouldn't weigh in on the debate to continue funding or not. The only question that matters is if the science is worth the $x billion more it will cost.

    On the other hand:
    Mech_Engineer raises a good point about the OLT. While doing things in space has a certain awesome factor, I find it hard to justify spending more for a telescope that will be less capable.
     
  9. Jul 8, 2011 #8
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    1) For all it's underachieving, the space shuttle has accomplished many different missions. It alone helped enable hundreds of projects at (I'd expect) lower cost than a disposable launch. My main point is: comparing the multi-mission space shuttle to a single (or limited) mission device like the JWST isn't proper. They're apples and watermelons.
    2) The ISS has cost the US 'only' 1/2 of the total, and again - it's accomplishing many different projects simultaneously and throughout it's lifecycle.
    3) Regarding hubble: once it proved itself, they started add/changing components to update it. But that was after it proved itself as a resource, so we got 3-5 generations of equipment out of the HST for the cost of what it's going to be to START the JWST.
    4) Human projects: I think they already are prioritizing away manned flight, esspecially since the cancellation of the Constelation program.


    Your comparison, IMO, is like trying to justify the cost of a single ornate Mississippi river bridge by comparing it to the entire cost of the Eisenhower Interstate System. They're different scales, different usages, and different functionalities. Both are ways for vehicles to travel and the money may come from the same place, but the similarities stop there and they're not mutually exclusive.
     
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  10. Jul 8, 2011 #9
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    Personally I'd like to see them bring back JIMO, but I hate for JWST to die because of bureaucratic nonsence and poor management within NASA. I understand the need to hurl humans into space but we often forget how much we can learn just by looking and watching.
     
  11. Jul 8, 2011 #10
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    Given this is a Politics thread - I'm in favor of adding little boxes to the tax return document - donate (from your return) $10, $20, $50, $100 - and a write-in box - for direct investment in whatever agency needs cash - show a list. Even a poor person receiving a $5,000 EITC can "afford" $10.
     
  12. Jul 8, 2011 #11
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    One thing for sure is that it is a beautiful structure.If they scrap it I'm going to try to retrieve it from the rubbish bins and assemble it as an ornament in my garden.:smile:
     
  13. Jul 8, 2011 #12

    D H

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    First and foremost, the federal government has to cut spending everywhere. They are currently spending more than 40% more than they take in. The easiest place to cut is that small 10% or so sliver of the federal budget on non-defense discretionary spending. As NASA is a small sliver of that small sliver, NASA can only look forward to substantial cuts.

    That "beautiful structure" is a big part of the problem. It is a beautiful but incredibly convoluted and expensive structure. A smaller, monolithic structure wouldn't have been near so pretty, but it would have cost a lot less, and the science would have still been top-notch. The design decision to double the diameter (and hence quadruple the area) did not take into account that doing so would more than quadruple the cost but would yield a lot less than quadruple the science outcome. Sometimes making things bigger/better makes sense because of economies of scale. Economy of scale is not a given. Sometimes you get diseconomies of scale, and that is exactly what happened with JWST.

    There's no reason to do that. There are plenty of people, including congresscritters, who could make derogatory remarks about space science. To many people, human spaceflight is the primary reason NASA deserves any funding whatsoever. Others think that human spaceflight and space science should somehow complement one another. It is only a very small minority who think space science is the primary reason NASA deserves any funding whatsoever.
     
  14. Jul 8, 2011 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    Once management is fired? That will never happen. NASA has convinced themselves and Congress that the are the only people who can manage this and that whoever they put in charge is the best possible person, and even in the case of a complete disaster, nobody could have done better. They may be right.

    The way you manage a $500M or less project is different than the way you manage a $5B project. In the former case, you keep to your budget religiously. In the latter case, you make the most recklessly optimistic baseline budget you think you can get away with, and then once too much money has been committed to back out, then you start overrunning.

    The problem with an honest estimate here is that even if you provide one, Congress will think you are lowballing and will double the price in their heads anyway.

    It's overrunning at about $500M per year. That's one Spitzer (or equivalent) every 18 months.
     
  15. Jul 9, 2011 #14
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    That's a good-hearted thought. But foolish.

    If you work, you've been sending thousands of Social Security dollars to Washington every year to save or invest for your retirement. But has Congress saved or invested your hard-earned money? No! They've wantonly squandered it on anything they though would get them reelected.

    If you give Congress more money for project X, they'll take the money, ignore your designation and use it as they see fit.
     
  16. Jul 9, 2011 #15
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    I can't condemn the condemnation of any project that runs so far over budget.

    But it should be noted why this thing cost so much to begin with. I think it was this article in Scientific American magazine (though I can't seem to access it now even though I subscribe) that explained how they are making those beautiful mirrors.

    They are made out of beryllium because it's so lightweight. But like everything, they will warp when subjected to near absolute zero of space. So how do they account for the warping? They ship the pieces to some facility in Huntsville, Alabama that lowers the temperature to something like 50K while they measure the warping and compare with what it has to be to get an in-spec image. Then they ship it back and grind it some more. And the cycle repeats.
     
  17. Jul 10, 2011 #16
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    I must disagree - if given a choice - I'll designate thousands of my tax dollars to projects that might someday help mankind progress - rather than give my money to a bum that games he system and chooses not to work! Again - IMO!
     
  18. Jul 13, 2011 #17

    MTd2

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    Who am I to criticize? I am not an US citizen. But cutting back of this extraordinary mission and other important missions and increasing the military spending is a way to accelerate the demise of USA as the most powerful country. It is fair and democratic in the long run, given that India and China have both together 9 times the population of USA, so they deserve to have an opportunity to lead the science as soon as possible.

    But given that it will just take too long, if I were an US citizen, I would gladly plead for an increase of, say 20% in taxes, even in my earnings, overall, to keep and improve such missions.
     
  19. Jul 13, 2011 #18

    DaveC426913

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    drunks with hammers? :grumpy:

    You are the winner of 10 million dollars!!!
    (...is what we could be saying to you if you fill out this form...)

    I look forward to your next post, where you try to get my attention with mention of the bat faced boy from The Enquirer...


    hmph.
     
  20. Jul 13, 2011 #19
    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    In the case of NASA cuts - it's not a zero sum game. Much of the military spending is non-budgetary anyhow (there are some effects, but they're not tugging from other things like you may think). NASA is seeing cuts because of it's lack of management and an overall tightening of strings - which because of it's cost overruns across the board is being hit doubly hard. Blaming the 'wars' for NASA's budget problems that have been going on for decades doesn't really hold much weight.
     
  21. Jul 13, 2011 #20

    MTd2

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    Re: Beautiful mirrors of James Webb space telescope may be smashed by drunks with ham

    So, the extra costs of war in Afghanistan, the countless military bases of US around the world are not a non budgetary spending?
     
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