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James Webb Space Telescope Closer To the Axe

CmdrTaco posted about 3 years ago | from the i-see-nothing dept.

NASA 226

astroengine writes "This could be considered 'strike two' for the deeply troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Last week, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee made the recommendation that the advanced infrared space telescope be cancelled. On Wednesday, the full House Science, Space and Technology Committee has approved the subcommittee's plan. The project may not be dead yet — the 2012 budget still has to be voted on my the House and Senate — but it sure is looking grim for 'Hubble's replacement.'"

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226 comments

So Painfully Frustrating (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 3 years ago | (#36762534)

Can someone please explain to me why despite the fairly linear rising budget of NASA [wikipedia.org] we are shutting everything down right now? Is mismanagement really that bad at NASA? Is it saddled with debt from past programs?

I don't get it. It's like I'm watching my generation drop the ball despite all the obvious reasons in my mind to establish a presence off this rock. "Oh, my parents' generation put people on the moon. Not only did my generation stop putting people and telescopes in space, we also made ground observatories illegal and have re-instituted burning people who claim the Earth is not the center of the universe. Why? Because it was more affordable in the very immediate future."

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (4, Insightful)

zoobaby (583075) | about 3 years ago | (#36762598)

Read the report: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=35294 [spaceref.com]

In short, the answer is yes, management is that bad at NASA. I am coming to believe that we need to look at NASA's mission and alter it for the post Cold-War era.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

sycodon (149926) | about 3 years ago | (#36762736)

There are no more "Steely-Eyed Rocket Men" left at NASA. Just bureaucrats with technical degrees.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (5, Insightful)

spidercoz (947220) | about 3 years ago | (#36763298)

Technical degrees? More like MBAs, the downfall of American society. Which brings up a point: why are "Masters of Business Administration" so fucking terrible at administrating businesses? It's almost like they don't have any real skills or abilities and it's a bullshit degree. Oh wait...

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 3 years ago | (#36763422)

"I am coming to believe that we need to look at NASA's mission and alter it for the post Cold-War era."

Get rid of NASA as it exists, switch to missions where the humans stay on Earth, and let the rest of the world spend their money on manned entertainment (it's not "exploration").

Instead of doing for the rest of the world what it should do for itself, we can sit back and reap the benefits.

There are many countries which have no space program and do just fine. Germany is the worlds second largest exporter, far more efficient in every way than the US, and doesn't bother with space exploration because it isn't useful to them.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36763468)

Germany participates in the ESA. So technically they do have a space program.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763534)

NASA is based on space exploration mainly. So what is the alternative? Focus on just putting up satellites for cable tv so you can watch a bunch of millionaires play games?

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 3 years ago | (#36762632)

It's quite simple.

Every time the "budget for NASA" is drawn up, it's not the actual NASA budget. If NASA were able to put the money where it was needed, they'd be in a lot better shape.

What Congress does instead is writes a "NASA budget" with a fuck-ton of strings attached. They give a "budget" for various missions, not overall. They cover salaries and the funding of various project bids, which can't be reassigned until Congress writes the next "NASA Budget."

Add to that the fact that NASA projects are usually on the order of a decade long, and most of these Congressional Fuckwits from either party are up for reelection (and a lot get replaced) every couple years, then come in and rewrite the budget and re-earmark things to the states of whatever party's in power to the loss of the states that aren't.

The current, added problem is that the Republicans - the party currently with "power of the purse" - have a hate-on for NASA because NASA was actually DOING the climate research and ongoing studies in response to screams of "global climate change is a myth, there's not enough research." The cuckoo clock wing of the party wants to kill NASA right now because they don't want there to BE enough research, ever.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762738)

Does anyone has some insight as to how this compares to, say the NIH budget and budgetary process? The NIH seems to function slightly better than NASA. Are there significant differences in the way Congress handles the two? Is the existence of private partners like Big Pharma enough to make the NIH work even with Congress' failings?

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (4, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#36762854)

Does anyone has some insight as to how this compares to, say the NIH budget and budgetary process? The NIH seems to function slightly better than NASA. Are there significant differences in the way Congress handles the two?

Yes, they're different. NIH grants are handed out by a peer-review board. NASA projects have their funding set by Congress.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (4, Interesting)

the gnat (153162) | about 3 years ago | (#36763166)

The NIH seems to function slightly better than NASA. Are there significant differences in the way Congress handles the two? Is the existence of private partners like Big Pharma enough to make the NIH work even with Congress' failings?

The other reply mentioned the main reason - the final funding decisions are largely in the hands of peer reviewers rather than Congressmen. But I'd also add that the NIH sponsors competing projects, which provides added motivation for the grant recipients to get something done as quickly as possible without wasting too much money. (It's basically applying the logic of free-market economics to public sector research.) The influence of Big Pharma is actually pretty minimal, although it can't hurt politically (nearly every PhD scientist working in biotech or pharma was funded by the NIH at some point). It's certainly nothing like the aerospace industry that depends on NASA for a large part of its business.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (4, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | about 3 years ago | (#36762986)

I remember from a book discussing the Hubble Space Telescope that a significant political problem that NASA faces is the shifting political winds with regard to space exploration. If NASA put in a request for how much a project would actually cost, then the project would never be funded because of the "why are we spending so much on space when there are people starving in America" crowd. Thus, NASA would put in a low-ball request, which would be stuffed through. The sub-contractors would have to cut corners to meet the low-ball bid. Of course, these cut corners eventually result in huge catastrophes such as a defective main mirror on the space telescope. However, at that point, so much money has been put into the project that asking for a few billion more seems more attractive than losing all the money already spent.

If politicians would fund NASA appropriately, and more importantly, if they could commit to a certain level of funding past the current administration, then things would probably (not certainly) better. But NASA lives in fear that every four years, its budget might be eliminated. The current movement away from NASA-designed lift vehicles would be a good thing in this regard. If private enterprise were providing all the launch vehicles, NASA could spend the money more effectively on space exploration while other agencies such as the NSA, NRO, Air Force, etc. helped subsidize the research on the private launchers.

Just my two cents.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763058)

"But NASA lives in fear that every four years, its budget might be eliminated. " you mean

"in fear that *every year*, it's budget..."

And worse, what about this year.. no budget, so NASA operated on a "continuing resolution" which has the effect of "funding for each project/program/mission stays the same as last year" You're in the early days of a mission just starting to ramp up? Tough.. you can't. Got a program that's sucking resources from everywhere that you were planning on ramping down? Nope.. gotta keep doing something with all those people. And, then, when the budget finally *is* passed (not yet, though)... you have a couple months to replan before the end of the Fiscal Year come October 1st.

should rename it the 'anti terrorism telescope' (1)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#36763154)

and tell everyone you can spy on terrorists with it, it would have prevented 9/11, etc etc etc.

then it would get funded in a heartbeat.

i have heard that this is how eisenhower managed to get the interstate highway system built

Re:should rename it the 'anti terrorism telescope' (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#36763442)

The Interstate Highway System was always about strategic mobility in North America with a secondary role of commercial road network.

That's why it's name is - Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways

Eisenhower was involved in the first motorized convoy across the US, the 1919 Army Convoy on the Lincoln Highway, it took 4 months to get across the US by road.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcontinental_Motor_Convoy [wikipedia.org]

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 3 years ago | (#36763364)

This was part of the problem so frustrating about the space shuttle program. Originally, the shuttles were supposed to fly a LOT more missions and do a lot more. For one example: the fuel boosters were originally designed to be carried into space as reusable modules to add to a space station. Politics killed that part.

There were originally supposed to be a lot more launches, but Congress killed funding to produce enough shuttles and booster parts to make that a reality. Later dipshits in Congress would lament "we were supposed to be launching a lot more regularly" in their attacks on NASA, while ignoring the fact that their predecessors were the ones responsible for not providing enough money to do so.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#36763588)

This was part of the problem so frustrating about the space shuttle program. Originally, the shuttles were supposed to fly a LOT more missions and do a lot more. For one example: the fuel boosters were originally designed to be carried into space as reusable modules to add to a space station. Politics killed that part.

If I remember correctly, the Nixon administration told NASA how big a budget they could expect to have in the future and told them to design a program within that budget that they could push to Congress. NASA came back with a far more expensive program and acted surprised when they didn't get enough money.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

Uhhhh oh ya! (1000660) | about 3 years ago | (#36763574)

Exactly, I would agree that NASA needs to take a look at their management chain but part of the chain they cant do anything about. The government is constantly readjusting their budget and not following through on promised funds. The politicians make the argument that there is work that needs to be done to bring jobs back. Yet despite all these cuts I don't see them doing anything useful, all the funding just heads to the military or bailing out some big business with worse management than NASA.

Now don't get me wrong I am not an anti military guy and I am all for them receiving a large budget but not if it means cutting other important programs to the point where they can not longer function. Military has made huge strides in R&D but it takes decades for it to reach the public. NASA brings the images and information about things light years from earth right to our computers as they discover it. But the government doesn't care about that they know most people wont notice a one or two decade gap in any new information about the universe outside earth.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763462)

The current, added problem is that the Republicans - the party currently with "power of the purse" - have a hate-on for NASA because NASA was actually DOING the climate research and ongoing studies in response to screams of "global climate change is a myth, there's not enough research." The cuckoo clock wing of the party wants to kill NASA right now because they don't want there to BE enough research, ever.

Really? Let me clue you in: even your most nutjob right-wing Repub deep down acknowledges global warming. If the Repubs are going after NASA it's because of a political vendetta because that jackass Al Gore instructed the primary climatologist at NASA to fudge his original numbers as a political ploy to oust all the Repubs from the Bush administration. (If you don't believe me, look up past articles in The Register regarding this very topic.) This is politics, pure and simple: both sides play the game dirty, and we're all fools for re-electing most of them.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1, Insightful)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36762658)

When the greatest generation put us on the moon NASA's budget reached 4.41% of the federal budget.

Now it is 0.60 percent.

Meanwhile the pockets of the rich have been filled, and the military industrial complex/financial industry/various other big corporations run the USA.

Obama really got handed a steaming bag of **** when he took office after good ole George. Just as all the tough decisions that had been put off until tomorrow for years on end started coming home to roost.

The Republicans should be so glad they lost that election because now, with everyone's short memory, they can blame all these problems on Obama and have a good chance next year. Nevermind that in our topsy turvy modern world, Conservative/Republican means "spend like drunken sailors who cares about fiscal responsibility, yahoo!!!" and Liberal/Democrat means "try and get a handle on things before our bonds reach junk status" and then take the fall for making the tough choices.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762876)

That "greatest generation", i.e. the "boomers", are the ones that put us in the current mess by borrowing their dream lifestyles all the years ago from the future tax payers. The very same people that wish to cut all govt expenditure *except* their health and pensions.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 3 years ago | (#36762902)

That "greatest generation", i.e. the "boomers",

Wrong. The "greatest generation" was the generation who gave birth to the boomers.

idiot boomers ruined everything (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#36763642)

That "greatest generation", i.e. the "boomers",

Wrong. The "greatest generation" was the generation who gave birth to the boomers.

Well, at least they have that failure on their record.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36762916)

Nah, the boomers were not the greatest generation -- their parents were.

You're right about their lifestyle though. The boomers just lived off all the hard work of the greatest generation and piled up all the debts that we now face in the future.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1, Flamebait)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 3 years ago | (#36762880)

Obama really got handed a steaming bag of **** when he took office after good ole George. Just as all the tough decisions that had been put off until tomorrow for years on end started coming home to roost.

The Republicans should be so glad they lost that election because now, with everyone's short memory, they can blame all these problems on Obama and have a good chance next year. Nevermind that in our topsy turvy modern world, Conservative/Republican means "spend like drunken sailors who cares about fiscal responsibility, yahoo!!!" and Liberal/Democrat means "try and get a handle on things before our bonds reach junk status" and then take the fall for making the tough choices.

And Oblame-a has taken that bag and happily made it his own so please don't play the Repukes vs. Democraps card.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36762954)

I don't have a horse in the race.

I actually think people that are polarized to either side are just deluding themselves.

Both of them are horrible.

In this case though, I really do think that Obama had his hands pretty clearly tied by the circumstances.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36763584)

I think it's more along the lines of the Winston Churchill aphorism:

"You can always depend on the Americans to do the right thing. After they have exhausted all other possibilities".

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#36763654)

No, President Obama could have had some spine and cut some military procurements that are spiraling out of control, the Bush White House did it to the Future Combat System, Comanche, Paladin, DD-21.

But President Obama keeps shoveling money into bad programs like KC-46, JSF, DD-1000, LCS.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (4, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#36763598)

Don't blame Bush for NASA's failing and Congress's inability to fund it properly, Republicans generally support NASA stronger than Democrats because states with heavy NASA presence generally vote Republican (Florida, Texas) and NASA goes hand in hand with military spending.

If you look at NASA spending and NASA foes in Congress its almost always cut by Democrats even during the Apollo era. Walter Mondale was the biggest foe of Apollo and personally made it his mission to cut funding to NASA

http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4221/ch4.htm [nasa.gov]

"This item involves a fundamental and profound decision about the future direction of the manned space flight era. This is, in fact, the next moon-type program. I believe it would be unconscionable to embark on a project of such staggering cost when many of our citizens are malnourished, when our rivers and lakes are polluted, and when our cities and rural areas are dying. What are our values? What do we think is more important?"

"Mondale then offered his amendment again, as he sought to delete the $110 million for the Shuttle/station as an appropriation."

Once Johnson got the Presidency, NASA started being defunded, then it goes up under Reagan, Bush, down and up and down under Clinton and up under Bush.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NASA_budget_linegraph_BH.PNG [wikipedia.org]

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762678)

Maybe when you find why this one project ran so far over budget you'll have your answer.
 
I'm all for the space program. I had high hopes for James Webb. But it seems so badly managed. I can't help but think that someone on NASA's side cut their own throat with bad decisions.
 
Aside from that, I also feel that we need to get the president out of NASA's business. Every new administration seems to pull on NASA's strings in order to make it appear that the incoming president is a visionary pioneer with their eye on science. This is bull and we all know it. With each changing administration we doubtlessly lose tons of money on wasted R&D that went into the last administrations demands out of NASA. This needs to end. This isn't a statement on any party or any single administration before someone tries to turn this into a partisan pissing match. It's all of them.
 
I also wonder what other science suffers from politicians deciding the direction science should take and how many tax dollars are lost in these changes in "policy" by the unknowing.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762700)

Mismanagment at NASA is shocking. I do IT work for several NASA funded earth science programs. They'll award you a 1 year grant and then it takes 13-14 months for the money to show up. Then they bitch about how you didn't spend the money in time. They are swining the budget axe across the board becuase they are re-routing all that money into the new manned space flight program. Whatever they call it now that Constellation is canceled, even though it uses the same vehicles as Constellation. Manned space flight is just a corporate welfare program for Boeing and Lockheed. It's also pork for the districts where the components are built. If you want proof, just look at the requirements: Make it cheaper and safer than the Shuttle, but use the same expensive dangerous components (SSME, SRB, ET) as the shuttle built by the same people. The fact that congress is making this high level engineering decisions for NASA is insane. It's fundamentally broken.

thanks for the post (1)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#36763176)

if more insiders spoke out maybe something could get changed.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2, Interesting)

flaming error (1041742) | about 3 years ago | (#36762772)

> Is mismanagement really that bad at NASA?
From everybody I know who's ever worked with them.... yes.

One of my friends had a five man company that made some esoteric part. NASA liked it, thought they could use it on the ISS. They made a deal. Which included NASA sending two guys to observe those five guys, full time, for eight months. The widgeteers had an aggressive development schedule they had to meet, and they had to do it while being continuously audited by two empty-headed challengeatrons.

Another friend ran a machine shop, and he got a NASA deal and they paid for him to build a second story to house a huge water tank and pressure chamber for testing, then NASA walked away.

Except for a couple pockets of competence like JPL, I think NASA serves mainly as a pork barrel.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#36762782)

Yes NASA isn't the best managed agency but it's rather simplistic to say that they're given more money but they can't do as much as in the past. You're ignoring that NASA has been asked to do more than in the past. Putting a man (or anything) on Mars is an order of magnitude more expensive and difficult than putting something on the moon. While they are given some increase in budget, it's not an order of magnitude more.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#36762900)

But NASA hasn't put a man on Mars. It hasn't even done a complete study of *how* to put a man on Mars. On the other hand, while NASA's budget is considerably up from its low point, it should be noted that it's still much lower (in constant dollars) than it was at the height of the Moon missions.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#36763102)

Yes but it's been asked to plan for one. Planning for one isn't simply putting some engineers in a room with coffee and donuts for a day. Engineers are probably working on discrete problems like sanitation, payload, communications, etc. While they won't have all the details just yet, they are formulating the questions to be answered. For example NASA funded the long term bed rest study to understand microgravity effects which will come into play.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762844)

You didn't correct for inflation. As a percent of GDP and federal budget as well as in 2007 dollars, the budget is lower than it has been in the past.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

TWX (665546) | about 3 years ago | (#36762856)

If I remember correctly, the space race of the sixties and early seventies cost the US almost 1% of GDP to operate. The program also took lots of risks and resulted in the deaths of three Astronauts. We were competing for what we thought was our very existence against the biggest threat we had ever faced, an enemy who had stated their intent to ideologically turn us into them.

The Shuttle program of the eighties, which had military considerations (hence being a plane, along the lines of the X-20 Dyna-Soar) isn't really efficient at all. It's almost showing us how we have the means to brute-force our way to space. Using the shuttle to launch a satellite means not only is the weight of the satellite as a payload involved, but the weight of the shuttle, its supplies, and the personnel as well. It makes a lot more sense to launch just the satellite in a cowl. As for experiments in space, it probably makes more sense to design a capsule that has the capacity for the crew plus packed results from experiments with a non-returning, non-reentry-capable module that provides temporary habitation and laboratory space. The crew launches with both pieces, conducts experiments in the temporary module, packs the results into the capsule, straps in to the capsule, detaches from the module, deorbits and burns the module (if it's considered a risk in orbit) and then descends in the module. With the shuttle, since the same vehicle body is being reused (though it's probably more accurate to say 'recycled', considering the extensive refurbishing between each and every flight) the weight and design of the vehicle itself precludes a lighter, lower cost approach.

The Russians, while they've certainly had their problems, have had a much more cost-effective method with the Soyuz program, and the Progress modules for supplies delivery also have worked out fairly well. Cheap, designed for one trip, and able to be produced quickly and flown for their purpose without a lot of extra overhead.

Had we not suffered in the seventies with the material loss of Skylab, then in the eighties with Challenger and more recently with Columbia, without much real new achievement, we might have a public more interested in pushing the boundaries of space. But, with the stagnation of manned spaceflight since the seventies, the public just isn't inspired anymore, and I don't blame them. The cargo runs the shuttle has been used for don't do much for me either.

When NASA is faced with the collective ennui of a nation, it can't expect to get a lot of support from representatives, even when the programs are completely unrelated.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 3 years ago | (#36763576)

If I remember correctly, the space race of the sixties and early seventies cost the US almost 1% of GDP to operate.

And has given us back far more than that!

The program also took lots of risks and resulted in the deaths of three Astronauts.

Compared with the seven that blew up in Challenger, I think that just goes to show how much better driven it was when politicians didn't want to micro-manage and required so much bureaucratic overhead that only a tiny amount of the money handed to NASA can actually be spent on real engineers, real parts, real scientists and not on even more paper pushers to satisfy a certain breed of politicians who cry "oversight, accountability" without allocating extra funds to pay for just that.

If anyhting, I think we need to go back to the cold war way of doing things, and abandon the post-cold-war paper-shuffling game.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763644)

the only reason the shuttle got built was by NASA begging the DOD to use it to put Keyhole spy satellites in space. the shuttle cargo bay was completely redesigned for this purpose (rebuilt to fit the satellites in question).

after NASA got to the moon, they got something like a 70% budget cut. among the first things they cut was QA, and the rest (Hubble mirror never being tested before launch, looking away from obvious and eventually fatal shuttle design problems) is history.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (2)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 3 years ago | (#36762882)

Can someone please explain to me why despite the fairly linear rising budget of NASA [wikipedia.org] we are shutting everything down right now? Is mismanagement really that bad at NASA? Is it saddled with debt from past programs?

I don't get it. It's like I'm watching my generation drop the ball despite all the obvious reasons in my mind to establish a presence off this rock. "Oh, my parents' generation put people on the moon. Not only did my generation stop putting people and telescopes in space, we also made ground observatories illegal and have re-instituted burning people who claim the Earth is not the center of the universe. Why? Because it was more affordable in the very immediate future."

Maybe NASA is that mismanaged, but your own link includes a graph showing that NASA's budget has been in general decline since 1991: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1a/NASA_budget_linegraph_BH.PNG [wikimedia.org]

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762966)

You can read that however you want, since 1998 it's been trending upward ...

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (4, Informative)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | about 3 years ago | (#36762978)

i don't gt it. the budget of nasa in 2011 is 19 billion $. if you adjust for 2007 dollars, this is quite low considering 1991 had 19 billion, and every year in the '60s had considerably more.
as a % of budget, the nasa budget has been close to 1%, and 3-4% during the '60s. in 2011: 19B/3.8T=0.5%. this is the LOWEST ever in nasa's history. how can you expect greater things if you just don't give them money? spacex has done some things for cheap. but those things are just that: cheap. not groundbreaking, not furthering research, just plain cheap ways to do what has been surpassed many times by what nasa has repeatedly done.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763568)

i don't gt it. the budget of nasa in 2011 is 19 billion $. if you adjust for 2007 dollars, this is quite low considering 1991 had 19 billion

Okay so in 2000 the budget was under 15 billion adjusting for inflation dollars. Why wasn't the shuttle decommissioned and Hubble shut down then? Why now?

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762996)

It has always actually been that bad. A *GOOD* portion of the Gemini and Apollo programs were re-purposed ICBMS. The people who ran them and flew them were a good portion air-force. The other bits, science and landers and such were NASA.

The *expensive* bits came from the military.

However the nature of the military changed from long range strike capability to short range automated. So the large heavy lifting vehicles needed to cause a nuclear war are not needed as much anymore. So the research into them is nil. Those same ICBMS that are being removed from inventory (due to cost of maintenance, and treaties) are the very same ones they used to put us on the moon. They had the budget for it, now they use that budget on other weapons of war.

Even today the airforce is building its own 'shuttle' as they can not use the shuttle anymore.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

atrain728 (1835698) | about 3 years ago | (#36763056)

I think the chart explains well enough why the "linear rising budget" is not a good indicator of anything.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763266)

Decades of fiscal mismanagement have brought us to the precipice. It's not the fault of one generation, they are all to blame. The warnings of deficit financing went out years ago, and few paid any heed. Oh there were some years when the budgets were reined in, and others (like the past decade) where the federal government has been on a raucous spending spree using borrowed and printed money. Now we get to pay the price for their mistakes. It is sad to see good science go down the drain like this. But that is because most people don't care. Now it's time to start cleaning house. Unfortunately NASA is likely to get the hammered. Too bad they can't apply the same cutting torch to social welfare programs and the War Department. And taxation isn't going to close the breach. It's got to be cost cutting and it's got to be now, or soon there will be no NASA, NSF, or any other science programs left.

Re:So Painfully Frustrating (1)

zill (1690130) | about 3 years ago | (#36763366)

If the NASA budget is linearly rising, then the value of the money they receive is exponentially declining due to inflation.

Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762546)

This is what you get Obamatards from your messiah. This is the "hope and change" you voted in. Say goodbye to advanced scientific research and hello illiterate hicks and endless wars.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (0)

creat3d (1489345) | about 3 years ago | (#36762586)

Say goodbye to advanced scientific research and hello illiterate hicks and endless wars.

The irony is killing me. Your present, endless wars were started by an illiterate hick but I'm sure you know that already. Seriously, what fucking difference do you see between Bush and Obama? How long will you americans take to realize both of your parties are exactly the same thing?

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762634)

The irony is killing me. Your present, endless wars were started by an illiterate hick but I'm sure you know that already.

That was sort of the whole point of my post, numbnuts. Thank you for being captain obvious, though.

Seriously, what fucking difference do you see between Bush and Obama?

Ones a run-of-the-mill idiot and the other is an even bigger idiot?

How long will you americans take to realize both of your parties are exactly the same thing?

Why are you asking me?

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 3 years ago | (#36763022)

Not exactly the same.

The republicans are more honest about being authoritarian neo-feudal corporate welfare junkies and pander to radical theists.

The democrats are more subtle in their as authoritarian neo-feudal corporate welfare junkies and make futile token efforts at social programs to pander to the poor.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763160)

If you despise people poorer than you, vote republican. If you envy people richer than you, vot democrat.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36762680)

Yeah because all these budget problems and huge systemic deficits started in the past few years.

I mean I completely agree that people had hyped Obama up to an impossible standard but really..

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762696)

He's done nothing to make it better though. Americans better learn to love their banana republic and third world education ratings in a few years.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36762726)

How can you make things better when your government is essentially bankrupt, your economy has just fallen off a cliff as you got elected, you are mired in two useless wars and you are beholden to tons of corporate interests that paid to get you elected?

I don't think anyone who was being realistic could think that Obama was really going to come in and suddenly everything would be sunshine and rainbows.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 3 years ago | (#36762748)

How can you make things better when your government is essentially bankrupt, your economy has just fallen off a cliff as you got elected, you are mired in two useless wars and you are beholden to tons of corporate interests that paid to get you elected?

End the wars, default on your debt and rebuild the economy from their. It worked swimmingly for countries like Argentina. This will never happen though because you turds are going to be too proud to admit that you aren't the best country in the universe anymore.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36762770)

I am Canadian, and I live in Canada, so I do in fact live in the best country in the universe. ;)

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 years ago | (#36763044)

Don't worry. Harpo of the Reform party is working on that.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

bravecanadian (638315) | about 3 years ago | (#36763278)

I know :(

I find it strange and disconcerting how the neo-con groupthink has swept through the media and public here now.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36763440)

When Argentina defaulted it did not take out the economy of all the major powers. Also Argentina is not doing swimmingly, they are a third world country. A US default would kill the economy of many nations and put the US into third world economic status.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (1)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | about 3 years ago | (#36762818)

How can you make things better when your government is essentially bankrupt, your economy has just fallen off a cliff as you got elected, you are mired in two useless wars and you are beholden to tons of corporate interests that paid to get you elected?
I don't know create a new entitlemen,t start a third war in the middle east in the name of international cooperation, and stack the NLRB w/ union stooges to reduce the chances of fixing the structural flaws in the economy impeding job growth.

Re:Hope no. Change, not the way you wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762852)

and stack the NLRB w/ union stooges to reduce the chances of fixing the structural flaws in the economy impeding job growth.

Yeah, because it was the unions fault for the economic slump not all the greedy corporations and CEOs. I'm sure those damn union stooges held a gun to heads of all those CEOs and forced them into making bad loans!

Cut bait (1)

zoobaby (583075) | about 3 years ago | (#36762552)

As massively over budget, mismanaged, and failings to meet timelines as this project has been, maybe it's time to kill it. I know it would be capable of wonderful science, but sometimes you just need to cut your losses.

Re:Cut bait (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762622)

Like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? 5 days of worth of sustaining the wars funds the James Webb Telescope.

Re:Cut bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762706)

As massively over budget, mismanaged, and failings to meet timelines as this project has been, maybe it's time to kill it. I know it would be capable of wonderful science, but sometimes you just need to cut your losses.

Perhaps fire the management team and get a new one. It would be a real shame for this to go down the drain. Cut the manned space program and use the savings to fix this.

Re:Cut bait (1)

zoobaby (583075) | about 3 years ago | (#36763648)

They have changed the management team once. It will be a great loss for science to cancel the JWST, but sometimes, enough is enough and a lesson needs to be taught. The worst part is, it's basically done and in testing.

Manned space flight is essentially cut from NASA once the shuttle lands.

Solution. (4, Funny)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | about 3 years ago | (#36762580)

Tell congress that they can turn it around and use it as a spy satellite. Then attach it to the defense budget.

Re:Solution. (1)

creat3d (1489345) | about 3 years ago | (#36762608)

Tell congress that they can turn it around and use it as a spy satellite. Then attach it to the defense budget.

"We'll take a hundred of 'em!" - Congress

Re:Solution. (0)

SteveHeadroom (13143) | about 3 years ago | (#36762734)

Perhaps the lenses can be used to focus a laser to blow up non-Christian brown people? That should get the Republicans (and many Democrats) to support it.

Re:Solution. (1)

fabioalcor (1663783) | about 3 years ago | (#36762802)

Not gonna work. They will use it exclusively as a spy satellite, and it will not make any science.

Re:Solution. (1)

timster (32400) | about 3 years ago | (#36763202)

Telling people that the JWST could be used as a spy satellite would be what's called a "lie". But if they can get it launched before Congress finds out that it has to be permanently shielded from the Sun...

mod parent up (1)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#36763242)

there is so much garbage being funded by 'homeland security' but we cant get basic science research done.

It's only science (-1, Flamebait)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 3 years ago | (#36762616)

Since when has this geek stuff done anything for us as a nation? Them egg-heads don't git'er'done line we real Murricans do, right? Y'all are bunch of book fags, yessir. After we take care of that larnin' shit, let's do sumthin' about gettin' this gubmint offa our backs! I don't need some politician burrowcrat tellin' me how t' live mah life! Ain't no way, ain't no how! S'cuse me while I check the mail. Gotta see if my disability check's in there. Don't you give me that look, ah earned this hear money!

without jews, fags, and gypsies (0)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#36763268)

there would be no space program.

(apology to Mel Brooks)

Taking the Cake (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762744)

All that's left is for Michelle Bachmann to become president. Then I am thinking an all out nuclear strike to torch the planet would be a good idea.

Re:Taking the Cake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762956)

It's the only way to be sure.

Re:Taking the Cake (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36763664)

Just take out Washington DC. Then nothing of value would be lost.

Forget about it, not a problem. (0)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 3 years ago | (#36762780)

Nothing to see here, move along. The Republicans in the House are so cute, trying to pass budgets and stuff. The POTUS and Harry Reid (Senate leader) have said they see no reason to bring a budget up for debate so it is pointless. Sometime in the fall when the Repubs come to grips with that talk will turn yet again to another continuing resolution and every program will just auto pilot along.

Read the writing on the wall (1, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36762790)

No one will openly say it, but the U.S. doesn't have the money for space projects anymore. No politician wants to be the first to say it (because Americans don't like to hear anything besides "We're Number One!!!!"), so they're just quietly defunding everything.

Re:Read the writing on the wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763586)

No one will openly say it, but the U.S. doesn't have the money for space projects anymore.

"Don't have the money" MY ASS. We give more money to redneck morons as farm subsidies than we spend on NASA, and our defense budget is nearly the same size as what the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD spends (mostly our allies, btw).

Now, "lunatic creationist teabaggers don't want to SPEND the money" is a far more accurate description. Maybe if we get real lucky, they'll all get together in Florida or Texas and secede already...

Re:Read the writing on the wall (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36763636)

Please, compared to our budget nasa is pocket change.

We absolutely have the money. The ENTIRE space shuttle program is listed at just shy of 200 billion on wikipedia. The entire program, start to finish, including R&D.

Compare that to the iraq war or almost anything else, and it seems very obvious we can EASILY afford it. Nasa is listed at 17.6 billion per year on wikipedia. 2010 budget was 3456. I think we can afford half a percent of the federal budget going to nasa, but that's just me. As numerous others have pointed out here, this is a focus problem, not a money problem.

Re:Read the writing on the wall (0)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 3 years ago | (#36763668)

No one will openly say it, but the U.S. doesn't have the money for space projects anymore.

Bullshit. The U.S. isn't broke. We have suddenly decided that we don't want to pay for anything. All "we the people" want to do at this point is sit on our fat asses and bitch about how high our taxes are and how much gas costs. Neal Stephenson got it wrong: we don't even do software any more, just pizza delivery.

We could be, and ought to be, an historically great nation, busy building a new renaissance of science, technology, and art. Instead, we're turning ourselves into a third-world shithole, with our national wealth and heritage looted by robber barons. Thanks, Tea Party!

Re:Read the writing on the wall (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36763694)

No one will openly say it, but the U.S. doesn't have the money for space projects anymore. No politician wants to be the first to say it (because Americans don't like to hear anything besides "We're Number One!!!!"), so they're just quietly defunding everything.

Oh we have plenty of money. NASA's budget is a rounding error.

NASA's eulogy (4, Insightful)

MrKaos (858439) | about 3 years ago | (#36762816)

This is the true cost of the Iraq War. Such a shame.

Congratulations to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36762872)

the ultraviolet astronomer community. You whined so much about JWST not being a worthy replacement of Hubble because it wouldn't observe at ultraviolet wavelength you just got it cancelled. Thank you.

The purpose of James Webb (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#36762930)

For those that don't know James Webb was planned to be the successor to Hubble as it was supposed to see further than Hubble or ground based observatories. Also it was designed to observe in infrared rather than visible.

I thought it was nearly built? (2)

SeeManRun (1040704) | about 3 years ago | (#36762960)

If the thing is half built or more, then why cancel it. That is a real waste of money. You don't half do things, you find things that are yet to be started and cut those!

Re:I thought it was nearly built? (2)

Rolgar (556636) | about 3 years ago | (#36763460)

Fund it the old way, with private money. Business people who have acquired tens of millions or more money tend to know how to hold people accountable. If you give some benevolent millionaires and billionaires the opportunity to invest, with the understanding that they'll receive plenty of recognition, or the ability to auction the access time scientists want to buy (money they can get when they request funding for their research), you might be surprised at how quickly they will pony up the money, and how quickly they will turn this project around by figuring out who knows what they are doing, and who needs to be gotten rid of, and make the priority getting this thing into space instead of whatever the bureaucratic incentives are within NASA and the government. If the telescope time were able to bring in $2 million per day, that would bring in $700 million a year. After paying for scientists, communications, paying back the investment, you could see 600 million a year in profits, maybe with the understanding that once they've doubled their money, the ownership of the telescope reverts to a foundation that lowers the price but keeps it high enough to fund development of the next great space telescope.

I think that sounds a lot better than tossing the whole thing on the scrap heap.

What about the Chinese? (1)

FhnuZoag (875558) | about 3 years ago | (#36762962)

Maybe we can get the Chinese to put this thing up? We can probably sell what's been done so far to them to take over. Be less wasteful than tossing it to the scrap pile.

Re:What about the Chinese? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#36763592)

the Chinese have their own space program with various observatories on earth and launched, with more planned

Don't cancel it (2)

C_Kode (102755) | about 3 years ago | (#36763042)

Don't cancel it, just go through the project management and fire everyone who was mismanaging it causing it to go so far over-budget.

It probably had illegal crap involved such and kick-backs and over-charging. This is one reason why letting private companies develop these types of projects rather than government do it is usually so much cheaper. I think the same thing happen to the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) down in Waxahachie, Texas when the budgeted $4.4B practically tripled to over $12B

Re:Don't cancel it (2)

Soft (266615) | about 3 years ago | (#36763240)

Don't cancel it, just go through the project management and fire everyone who was mismanaging it causing it to go so far over-budget.

AFAICT, the reason why it's going so high over budget is that the budget itself was massively low-balled to begin with, so that the project would have a chance of being approved. In other words: lie about the true costs, they'll have to give you more later, when it's too high-profile to cancel.

The "mismanagement" here is that it wasn't spotted earlier. You can fire them, but you'll still have to either double the budget or cancel it all...

Re:Don't cancel it (1)

JamesP (688957) | about 3 years ago | (#36763688)

I don't agree with most of your comments, but I'm thinking about the over-budgeting thing.

The problem with NASA is that they want to do EVERYTHING from scratch.

New mission? New platform. New launch platform? new. New rover on Mars? Rebuild

Ares/Constellation. Money sink. Rebuild, rebuild, rebuild! And really, ARES looked like it suffered from NIH syndrome (maybe it should be called 'not invented by us syndrome'). And absolutely underwhelming.

Risk and cost goes up, payoff goes down.

Really, NASA should do a sattelite platform, an orbiter/flyby platform, a rover platform, and give the launch money to SpaceX. (Or Boeing/Lockheed).

Also, they should put money on BPP (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/bpp/) maybe with missions designed specifically for things like the flyby anomaly, the Pioneer anomaly, etc. It's the only thing that, with research, can get us out of the planet without strapping people to a million pounds of explosives.

Space Belongs to China (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 3 years ago | (#36763208)

The future of space research, exploration and exploitation belongs to China. This is because they have a government that can reliable implement long term plans. As opposed to us in the West who cannot because as soon as our governments are elected they have to start campaigning for re-election, which invariably means killing of the last government's projects, as opposed to effectively running their countries utilizing secure long term planing relating to all fields not just space.

Typo: "my" should be "by" (1)

SMoynihan (1647997) | about 3 years ago | (#36763210)

"...the 2012 budget still has to be voted on my the House and Senate"

Should be:

"...the 2012 budget still has to be voted on by the House and Senate"

Unless the author owns them, which would be awesome.

Because Govnt can't cut Military and Entitlements (1)

rcb1974 (654474) | about 3 years ago | (#36763438)

We spend trillion+ dollars per year on entitlements to people who don't work, and financing unjust foreign wars, yet we cannot afford to spend a few billion to complete the tool that will allow us to better understand the history of the universe? Come on... End the wars, cut off the entitlements, gradually shrink government to 75% of its current size, give all the money back to the taxpayer, and most importantly, end the Federal Reserve system which is a tax on anyone who holds wealth in dollars. Funding the James Webb project creates jobs for scientists and engineers -- the real people behind progress -- who create new technologies to improve everyones lives. This goes to show just how dumb the Obama administration and Congress can be. Ron Paul 2012.

Write Congress Now (2)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 3 years ago | (#36763580)

Now's the time to put your money where your mouth is Slashdotters. Time and again we bemoan on this site that our politicians (in the U.S.) piss our tax dollars away on pork-ridden bills and unnecessary defense spending at the expense of science. Now is the time to let Congress know just how important we nerds find science like the JWST to be. There are at least two open letters to Congress written by folks on the internet. They can be found here [votizen.com] and here. [reddit.com]

You can find your Congress-critter's mailing and contact information here [senate.gov] and here. [house.gov]

It won't take you more than 10 minutes to print on of those letters, fold it up, stamp it, and mail it to your representative or senator. We 'dotters bring down entire websites when we care enough about an issue to RTFA. Now is the time to bring Congress's mailroom to a standstill by declaring, in one unified voice, "You won't ransack our science research anymore!"

If we can afford two wars in the Middle East, Medicaire, Medicaide, and tax cuts for the rich assholes who are driving this country into the ground, then we can afford to build this telescope, not just for America, but for the continued progress and exploration of humanity in general.

Construction versus Maintenance (1)

mbone (558574) | about 3 years ago | (#36763666)

NASA has, over time, become more and more dominated by the people who want to spend money on stuff, as opposed to the people who want to do stuff. This is not just increasing bureaucratization, but a form of corruption that the US government is prone to across the board. I have heard it naked expressed that the real purpose of NASA is to make sure certain DOD contractors make a profit.

In other words, and to be blunt, building things shovels money into the pockets of politically well connected contractors. Running things, not so much.

However, the flip side of this is that it is much easier to shut down a not-yet-built program, than to shut down an existing one. So, the Hubble Space Telescope (which is still functioning well, and could probably be kept going for decades), is viewed as obsolete, and is shut down by NASA managers. The Webb (which is not intended for on-orbit servicing, and so will only last 5 years or so), is beloved by NASA managers, but is an obvious target for cost-cutters in the Congress. What's worse to me is that, if it is funded and launched, it will probably be late, and will die well before any replacement, thus causing huge gaps in our ability to observe from above the atmosphere.

I think that end-of-lifing of the Hubble ST is a major strategic blunder by NASA - just try getting that money re-established now. As far as what is to be done, I am not sure. I wish that we would stop electing so many bought and paid for politicians, though. That would be a start.

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