This week’s discussion topic: the James Webb Space Telescope

The clear winner of the discussion topic, with 11 votes, is the future of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), so that’s what the discussion will be about tonight (8pm UK time, 7pm GMT). For the people who picked the next most popular option – ‘I’d rather discuss a paper’ – don’t worry, Journal club will be back to normal next week (today’s change of format mainly arose from us not having enough time to select and preview a good paper).

The JWST is a US-led space telescope currently under construction, and due to launch within the decade. It is currently under threat of cancellation because it “…is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management”, according to the United States House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice and Science. More details about the telescope and its mission can be found here and here.

To help get the discussion started here’s a (nowhere near complete) list of JWST discussion-point pros and cons.

Pros:

  1. JWST’s large mirror and wavelength capabilities will give unprecedented views of the early Universe
  2. The project is very nearly complete. Surely it’d be crazy to cancel it now?
  3. Hubble is nearing the end of it’s life (and can’t be serviced anymore now the Shuttle program has ended), Spitzer is out of coolant. NASA needs a new Great Observatory.

Cons:

  1. The project is already late and over-budget. Shouldn’t we cut our losses now?
  2. It’s too technically risky, and there’s no possibility of servicing it. What if it never works?
  3. The money needed to complete it’s construction will take funds away from other astronomy projects

Further information/views on the current situation:

On twitter

Congress Threatens American’s Future in Space

To scrap the James Webb Space Telescope would be short-sighted

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One Response to This week’s discussion topic: the James Webb Space Telescope

  1. Jane says:

    Further reading:
    * The JWST science case, http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0606175
    * Whitepapers on additional JWST science (including exoplanets, dark energy, solar system) http://www.stsci.edu/jwst/doc-archive/white-papers/

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