Bad Press for JWST Due to Poor Budgeting

by Kelle on November 17, 2010

I know this is old news by blogging standards, but what are people’s thoughts about the hubbub over the JWST independent review report?

  • NASA Space Telescope Center of $1.5 Billion Fiasco | Science Insider
  • NASA would not be able to launch the telescope before September 2015—a year behind schedule. In order to make that deadline, NASA would need an additional $200 million for the project every year for the next 2 fiscal years. If NASA were to get this additional funding, which does not look likely at least for FY2011, it would still end up with a total cost overrun of $1.5 billion by the time the telescope is ready for launch. If this money does not come through, the launch will be delayed further—possibly by another 2 years, leading to a greater escalation of cost.

  • NASA Telescope Is Behind Schedule and Over Budget, Panel Says | NY TImes
  • Space science: The telescope that ate astronomy | Nature News
    Lots of background and details in this article.
  • { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Sarah November 17, 2010 at 8:38 am

    It’s pretty worrying for the whole community really – imagine that many astronomers have a stake in either JWST itself or in the NASA budget in general. $200M per year is a *lot* of extra money – and if that doesn’t become available the launch could well be delayed beyond 2016. But that doesn’t mean the problems raised in the report aren’t valid. This article in Nature news puts JWST in a broader NASA-context: http://bit.ly/aYPjxN

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    2 Marshall November 17, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    It’s hard to consider this a failure of the JWST project itself, so much as a systemic failure of the budget and appropriations system. Mars Science Lab? ~ $1B over budget (100% increase). Constellation? Billions over budget there, too. And of course the Space Shuttle has famously cost far more than it was originally advertised to. It’s not like this is unique to NASA: just look at the F-22 and F-35 programs, or the Airbus A-380, or the LHC, or really just about *any* major high tech project.

    Fundamentally, all the players have every incentive in the world early in a program to make costs look lower, to try and get the program approved, and then hope that enough money to cover the real, unadvertised cost can be scrounged up later. And that’s on top of the fact that it’s incredibly hard to estimate costs for tasks the human race has never done before. This is not news. It’s unfortunate, unquestionably… but if we can’t fix the problem when *hundreds* of billions of dollars are on the line (the jet aircraft industry) how can we hope to fix it for space astronomy?

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