JWST hanging out there

Savage article on JWST history and funding from Ron Cowen at Science News.

“It’s a game of you lie and I’ll swear to it,” says Michael Griffin, NASA’s administrator from April 2005 to January 2009. “The whole community talks itself into unrealistic cost estimates…. Everyone knows it’s wrong. Every engineer knows it’s utterly without foundation, but engineers aren’t making the decisions.”

If only an experienced engineer had headed NASA at the critical time, ensuring realistic cost estimates and funding profiles with guidance from HQ…

This is going back to the Casani report on JWST – read it and weep if you haven’t already.

NASA really has hung JWST out there, on its own, dummy funding profile, waiting for either line item funding from Congress, or a push from the White House – inviting it to be cut as a trophy project.
‘course having been hung out there, there is no guarantee the funding wedge comes back to Astrophysics if it is cut.

Not good.

Comments

  1. #1 Ben
    March 28, 2011

    How much of this is simply a combination of musical chairs and ass-covering? As far as I can tell, effectively Congress originally asked NASA to build a $1B telescope on the condition that it be built for $500M, NASA said “sure, we estimate that JWST will cost (scratches head) exactly $500M,” and this unreality has been built in from the beginning. (Substitute $4B and $2B for extra realism.)

    Now everyone from Griffin on down is pointing fingers and saying “It’s your fault for conspiring with me to underestimate the cost.” And Congress is shocked, shocked that there is bad budgeting going on here. Of course I recognize that you don’t get anywhere by pointing out Congressional creation-of-own-reality to Congress.

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