back to article Is the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope worth the price tag?

Is the $10 billion price tag for the world's most expensive telescope worth it? The first set of images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope published this week revealed the birth and death of stars and merging galaxies in stunning full color.  Direct comparisons of the same objects taken by the aging Hubble Space …

  1. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

    And the answer to the question is

    Yes.

    Best case, it lasts the 10 years and goes on to 20 years with good images all the time.

    Worst case, it becomes an experiment on how common micrometroids are at the L2 point.

    Either way we learn something new.

    And it beats the SLS as an actual good NASA project (I think SLS has already surpassed JWST's cost and will have higher ongoing cost in terms of billions per launch cost) which actually produces some new knowledge.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: And the answer to the question is

      It might be worth the price tag. If it had met the initial target to launch in 2007 and a US$1 billion budget it would have been superbly worth it. The issue now is that access to space is getting much much cheaper. It's not impossible to imagine something much more capable being launched in 5-10 years with a budget of less than $1 billion. If that happens sooner rather than later it will devalue JWST.

      1. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

        Re: And the answer to the question is

        Launch cost of the Ariane 5 is "only" about 150-200 million, out of the 10 billion spent.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariane_5#Launch_pricing_and_market_competition

        So even if you can get a future launcher which is better / similar for 1 million dollars, it will still cost about 10 billion for the whole telescope.

        Most of the money was spent on developing new technology, and one off manufacturing. You need 100s of parts to move very accurately to get the final alignment. And you can't exactly go to the JWST once launched to fix issues (like you could for the Hubble) so it has to work perfectly.

        So expect a similar, large, complex telescope with better tech included to also cost just as much, unless they have a launcher which can send up a very large device which is about the size of a tennis court (or larger, since I understand you need bigger detectors / optics to get better performance) without needing it to unfold in space.

        I don't think even SpaceX's upcoming Starship is capable of that.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: And the answer to the question is

          He's quite rightly pointing out how much more value for money it could have been had it been on time and on budget. He's also saying it's most likely *still* value for money even 15 years late and 20x over budget and suggesting that the next one, if on time and on budget, might be so much better both technically and value for money. While thinking on this and a likely successor, remember that JWST was in the first discussion phases before Hubble was even launched. That means the JWST successor is probably being discussed right now.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            >He's quite rightly pointing out how much more value for money it could have been had it been on time and on budget.

            It's the first one they built, at the cutting edge of engineering.

            Unexpected problems and thus delays are to be expected with this sort of project.

            Big IT projects tend to have "first-time" and "unique" aspects to them resulting in them having some elements of the R&D project and hence why they tend to be delivered late and over budget.

            So as the article writer works in IT, you have to question why they even think such a project could be delivered on-time and within budget.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: And the answer to the question is

              >Unexpected problems and thus delays are to be expected with this sort of project.

              It's far worse than that:

              The project is to build a cutting-edge almost impossible technology.

              But there is only confirmed funding for 3years, so anything you might need you better buy now.

              Sorry it didn't get renewed for the next budget, so fire everybody working on it and scrap all the jigs/tools

              Good news, it's back in the new budget next year, so dig out all those old designs and try and hire some new experts to continue working on them.

              Bad news, the budget had been halved so you need to redesign and cut how much you spend this year.

              Good news, we have new international partners, which mean you are now using their instruments/software/electronics and their launch vehicle so just redesign to incorporate that

              And all this is being done by defence contractors used to pricing each stage of the contract because they expected all this.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: And the answer to the question is

                "And all this is being done by defence contractors used to pricing each stage of the contract because they expected all this."

                Indeed. Unbelievably, they still operate under cost plus.

                Still, at least it's only American taxpayers money.

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: And the answer to the question is

                  >Unbelievably, they still operate under cost plus.

                  Because the suppliers are used to a world where they bid to build 1000 low cost housing units n Chicago

                  Then the next administration now wants them all to have 18 bedrooms and a pool, and they need to be built in Hawaii but 50% of the jobs have to be in Alaska

                2. Spazturtle

                  Re: And the answer to the question is

                  JWST was designed to use technology that didn't yet exist and be built out of materials that hadn't been invented yet. Cost plus is the only form of contract that makes sense for projects like the JWST where the true cost is unknowable at the bidding stage.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: And the answer to the question is

              This isn't a nebulous or unanswerable thing, the saga of the JWSTs slow and tortured journey has been covered in depth here, and across a decade of science journalism.

              This wasn't just paint by numbers contractor malfeasance, and it wasn't just because the things a one off or that the tech was all bleeding edge. It was never put on hold for years waiting for someone to figure out how to make the tech possible, and most of the really hard stuff from the physical systems was tackled early on.

              Some of the most punishing delays were purely political, as the large budget was a constant political football. Each time it was mothballed posed more risks, caused more damage and made more repairs. Each of those incidents also drove up costs and impacted other projects at JPL and NASA. Lack of political will to just see the project through probably counted a third of the preventable cost overruns. The biggest factor were probably project management stumbles that pushed some critical engineering forward to address technical risks, but left huge integration, software, and validation testing parts till later in the project. When some of those hit delays or bumps it meant that the huge process of validating the thing for launch got reset.

              That means that a painstaking process of testing had to be redone many times over the birth of the JWST. Same for each time they sent it in or out of storage.

              They learned hard lessons with Hubble, but while they over engineered the JWST mirrors as a result, they made many of the same mistakes with the project and the non-physical systems. When a project like this is running into the billions, history dictates that issues like mothballing and test validation aren't secondary issues or black swans. They should be as predictable and expected as the engineering team wanting a coffee maker and toilets that flush, and failing to anticipate that should be just as embarrassing.

          2. Vulch

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            LUVOIR is the current project name, Large Ultra Violet, Optical and Infra Red. Intended for launch on an SLS or a SpaceX Starship depending on cost and availability.

          3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            Although it was significantly delayed and over budget, it's clear that JSWT profitted from lessons learned on Hubble, et al. and is already providing information on to make future missions better. And the whole point about it being pioneering is that we don't know how valuable the information it provides is worth because it we be new.

            Using the phrase "value for money" on pioneering scientific missions generally precedes the desire cut budgets and spend the money elsewhere, where it could be more "efficient" and there's always a list of deserving projects. But if you look at how money is actually allocated, you'll see that's a non-starter.

            Yes, it's a lot of money. Yes, there has been waste (where hasn't there been) but given spread the budget over the lifetime of the project and compare it with any of the boondoggles the politicians, or the military, routinely come up with.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: And the answer to the question is

          The usual trade-off is time/quality/budget, pick any two. But that doesn't work when you're developing new technology as there are so many unknowns. You get to pick one: quality, the spec you want to meet and the real timescale and budget to achieve that become what they are. If you don't like the way they're working out the only option is to cancel. If you cancel you get nothing of your primary objective although you might also get some by-products in the form of the technologies that emerged from your development process. In the latter respect it would be interesting to know what products, possibly everyday products, emerge from the JWST.

          I suppose the beancounter interpretation would be that as it exceeded so many of its design criteria it shouldn't have been as expensive as it was but that's just beancounters. The nature of something that you can only test properly when it's in orbit means you have to hope you can go and fix it if it doesn't work properly first time as happened with Hubble. This one's not Hubble so nobody's going to fix it. Nor are you likely to get to build a Mk II if the original has a problem.

          1. FILE_ID.DIZ

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            No truer words written.

            Sure, Hubble was repaired and up until the last decade, reparable.... but it no longer is.

            Just as this new telescope.

            Imagine what would happen of a bean counter came in and said... "oh, why do we care if something is off by 10 nanometers".

            1. Snapper Bronze badge

              Re: And the answer to the question is

              Imagine what would happen of a bean counter came in and said... "oh, why do we care if something is off by 10 nanometers".

              I strongly expect that occurred more than once!

          2. techfollower

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            The list of costs in the article are correct. In addition to the costs, a determination of its worth should include other items. The financial accounting profession supports the practice of stating the value of intangible assets acquired from external sources on the balance sheet. Also, even though accounting has the aura of being an exact and objective quantification, there are many items in accounting statements that are estimates made by people.

            Here are items that should be included in the determination.

            Inspiration.

            Many young people are inspired and motivated by space exploration. For example, Elon Musk has commented that he started SpaceX because as a youth in South Africa he watched the Project Apollo launches. With SpaceX he has substantially reduced the cost of launches by developing reusable rockets to be used instead of disposable rockets. NASA has a video of JWST art created by school children all over the world. I think that many of the contributions these children will make later in life will be substantial and attributable to the aspirations they have because of the JWST.

            NASA’s Spinoff program

            NASA sees itself as a window through which innovation can enter society. It has an active program to share its innovations with the market so that the innovations can be used for both the purpose they were generated for and also other purposes. Many JWST innovations have already reached the market. The value of this fast path is substantial but not very quantifiable.

            Hope

            JWST has raised the bar of achievable complexity. It was achieved with diversity (NASA, European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency). This generates hope that the diversity of ITER (includes China, Russia, Europe, England, and the US) will succeed and thereby provide a model that China, Russia, Europe, England, and the US don’t have to destroy each other and can achieve difficult and peaceful outcomes by collaborating.

            1. Snapper Bronze badge

              Re: And the answer to the question is

              'For example, Elon Musk has commented that he started SpaceX because as a youth in South Africa he watched the Project Apollo launches.'

              He was born in 1971 and Apollo 17 was in 1972, so he'd be a 'youth' of 1.

              Even if he means the Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 he'd be 4.

              1. razorfishsl

                Re: And the answer to the question is

                video tape was invented.....

                he did not need to watch them live....

              2. WhereAmI?

                Re: And the answer to the question is

                He didn't necessarily watch them live, nor does he state that he did. I still watch them now and yes, I'm old enough to remember the final Mercury launch (just!) and being utterly fascinated by the Gemini-Agena docking attempts. I also remember drawing a picture at school imagining what the docking would look like!

                Did it inspire me? Yes, it damn well did. I was utterly determined to join the RAF, be good enough to get to the Empire Test School and then hopefully into astronaut training (assuming it became available to UK citizens). A lifetime of ongoing migraine attacks ensured that I didn't get passed the first hurdle, although I did go on to fly the small stuff.

        3. Persona Silver badge

          Re: And the answer to the question is

          And you can't exactly go to the JWST once launched to fix issues (like you could for the Hubble) so it has to work perfectly.

          Whilst that was necessary for JWST, it's the first thing that changes on the design of a successor with cheaper and, importantly, more timely access to space. The days when you have to book a launch 3 years away will be gone. There is a lot to be said for something cheaper but maintainable.

          The end result should be better too e.g. the detectors can be swapped for better ones as they become available and both coolant and station keeping propellant could be replenished which then permits a greater rate of consumption, hence less exacting design requirements. You can afford to make if stronger/heavier too and save money by not having to manage the tradeoff of additional mass eating up the consumables budget. If a gyro or reaction wheel fails, then replace it. It doesn't need to be designed to limp on for 10 or 20 years.

          With all the money saved you can build 2 as the design costs for 1 or 2 are much the same. Why not make a bunch (18) of them each with a big single mirror with the combined cluster benefitting from both more light gathering capacity a bigger baseline. I have no idea if this is feasible, but it demonstrates that the changes to the way we access space might be exploitable to make the JWST successor both better and potentially much cheaper.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            > ...it's the first thing that changes on the design of a successor with cheaper and, importantly, more timely access to space....

            Err you you have any appreciation as to where in space JWST resides?

            I don't see any of the current launch operators - including NASA - offering a return flight to JWST anytime soon.

            So the successors are highly likely to be built to the same.

            > Why not make a bunch (18) of them

            This would be an interesting project, however, given JWST was built as a production run of one, building 18 will require much R&D ($ and time) to build the production line and to modify the design to facilitate larger scale production. So expect those 18 to cost closer to $180Bn than $100Bn.

            1. Persona Silver badge

              Re: And the answer to the question is

              > Err you you have any appreciation as to where in space JWST resides?

              Yes. The question you need to ask is that a good location for it. The answer is yes if you need to position it where you you need to shade it with a big sun shield to preserve detector cooling capacity, need very low delta-V position keeping (thanks to L2) to preserve fuel. If you predicate the design sufficiently then L2 becomes a good place that rules out maintenance missions so it needs to be maintenance free and run for 10 to 20 years and you get JWST 2.

              If on the other hand you design to make use of the changes in access to space the result could be very different. e.g. The Apollo project cost $25bn, equivalent to $175bn (£140bn) today. A return to the moon mission should not carry a $175 billion budget just because that is what it cost then.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: And the answer to the question is

                >make use of the changes in access to space the result could be very different.

                But JWST took advantage of the changes in access to space, hence why it was origami folded to fit a specific sized payload container.

                The frequency of launches is largely irrelevant; the launch gets scheduled as and when the satellite is ready to go.

                >A return to the moon mission should not carry a $175 billion budget just because that is what it cost then.

                Suspect it will cost more, because a return to the moon will be more than just getting two men to make a few steps, plant a flag, go for a drive, collect a few rocks and come home.

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: And the answer to the question is

                  >But JWST took advantage of the changes in access to space, hence why it was origami folded to fit a specific sized payload container.

                  That's one way to phrase it. The 1995 design was a 6m monolithic mirror to be launched on an Ariane 5 with an enlarged shroud (the turbo bump).

                  Then in 2001 the French declined an invitation to a party in Iraq and so it had to launch on a Delta 4 'Freedom rocket'. This involved a lot of back to the drawing board to fit a 6m mirror in a 3+m rocket.

                  This cost so much that they needed international partners, who contributed a free launch on an ..... Ariane 5

                  But good for us, our mirrors were going to be bumped for the more profitable NASA contract

                  In theory even better if the same technology allowed a future folding 20m space telescope - but there is never any long term planning to keep the knowledge around

          2. Killing Time

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            As the principle objective of the JWST is deep field, why locate its successor for this function in outer space? In the timescales you are suggesting, given the national and commercial objectives currently under way, lunar polar craters should be under serious consideration for the next step.

            Suddenly, a lot of these location,weight, access and upgradability issues have far easier solutions.

          3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Re: Why not make a bunch (18) of them each with a big single mirror

            You don't really understand the constraints of launching a telescope on a firecracker, do you ?

            The best rockets we have at the moment cannot carry anything wider than 5 meters. JWST has an operational mirror surface of 20 meters.

            How do you think that happened ?

            It happened because brilliant engineers thought of and constructed a folded telescope capable of deploying itself a million miles away.

            Hats off to them.

            It's the first time Humanity has done this. First times cost.

            The next JSWT will be cheaper, because we've already done it. But there will be no single mirror.

            Not until we have rockets that are 21 meters in diameter.

            1. Spazturtle

              Re: Why not make a bunch (18) of them each with a big single mirror

              "Not until we have rockets that are 21 meters in diameter."

              But since we now already have the technology to make folding telescopes you might as well make an 80 meter telescope and fold it up to fit in that hypothetical 21 meter wide rocket.

          4. Charlie Clark Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: And the answer to the question is

            You are making some fairly sweeping assumptions about future improvements that might be appropriate for industrial production but really neglect the complexity not just of getting the telescope to where it needs to be and managing the mission. That's a great VC pitch, but not necessarily great science.

            But you're also ignoring the growing problems of unregulated privatised space travel: who pays to clean up when things go wrong?

        4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: And the answer to the question is

          >So even if you can get a future launcher which is better / similar for 1 million dollars, it will still cost about 10 billion for the whole telescope.

          Not necessarily. (Speaking from Hubble era experience)

          If a Shuttle launch is $1bn, and only one slot is available in 5-10years time then you need to be really sure the payload is going to work, so you test the living-Belgium out of it, for years and years. This costs a fortune and means you are limited to now obsolete but proven space-qualified technology.

          If it is going on a manned mission - then all this 10x

          If a launch is a $1M and is available every day, then you just use cheap off-the-shelf technology and figure you would rather have 50*$10M craft + $50M launch costs - than a single $500M payload

      2. aks

        Re: And the answer to the question is

        As the technology now exists and has been proven to work, a clone of the JWST could presumably built on-time and on-budget.

        That's not how science and science-funding works. You learn from what works and what doesn't and plan for an even more capable device that will have new ideas, newer technology, and new obstacles to overcome. Just look at the Mars exploration adventure.

        1. midgepad

          But if you can find a use for another

          Then building one or two more to the same pattern, using the choices that worked, is quite sensible.

          So, letting two teams do observations at the same time, getting science done quicker, doing the projects that were almost good enough for the limited facility as well - reasonable.

          Making a long baseline interferometer?

          Getting the spare ready.

          Building one with a couple of somewhat tested improvements and additions.

          Putting out a tug there, maybe. But that's new engineering, to try out nearer Earth.

        2. FILE_ID.DIZ
          Alien

          Re: And the answer to the question is

          A simple example is our exploration of Mars.

          The first probes were crude and expensive, relative to their scientific output (in hindsight, of course). We've now sent dozens of probes, each costing less than the former and most (if not all) lasting magnitudes longer than their designed lifespan.

      3. ridley

        Re: And the answer to the question is

        The cost of getting it into space and to the lagrange point is nothing compared to the cost of the scope.

    2. msobkow Silver badge

      Re: And the answer to the question is

      I agree. Far better to do research than blow another 10 billion on bombs and guns for the military.

  2. Roland6 Silver badge
    Coat

    "And so, after a quarter of a century, ... what does the entire effort have to show?"

    Man has started to take in interest in local affairs...

    Coat -> Mines the one with a couple of cans of beer and packets of peanuts in the pockets...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "And so, after a quarter of a century, ... what does the entire effort have to show?"

      "Coat -> Mines the one with a couple of cans of beer and packets of peanuts in the pockets..."

      You forgot your Towel !!!

      [And a Babelfish would be useful ...... if you can get one !!!]

      :)

      1. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge

        Re: "And so, after a quarter of a century, ... what does the entire effort have to show?"

        And you both forgot your 'electronic thumb', not to mention the guidebook.....

        or do you have the card which categorically states that you are not allowed to get freebies for writing a good review?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "And so, after a quarter of a century, ... what does the entire effort have to show?"

          Perhaps, but then the guidebook and electronic thumb are usually carried in a satchel, which never gets taken off...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "And so, after a quarter of a century, ... what does the entire effort have to show?"

          OP

          "And you both forgot your 'electronic thumb', not to mention the guidebook....."

          But, I would only know about the Towel if I had read the guide & the 5 or 6 Book(s) in the 'Trilogy'

          [to Break the 4th if not 5th+ wall* !!!], therefore would not be so foolish to leave it behind !!!

          'Electronic Thumb' only necessary *IF* I intend leaving for other climes within the universe(s)*.

          :)

          * See 'white mice' et al for further information. :)

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    There will inevitability be some that suggest the money spent could be used to address world hunger.

    But we cannot stop the world from turning until all these problems are fixed because it would never turn again.

    (and lose its magnetic field and there would be no world for us anyway).

    But this will excite and inform science for decades and meanwhile many times the cost is being pissed away in Ukraine.

    1. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

      World hunger is mostly self inflicted by us humans.

      It has become a bigger issue recently due to the "not a war" in Ukraine now. And that was started by a single human (Putin, for those who don't know).

      And before that, it was mostly a political problem, as we tend to produce ample food to feed the whole world. Last I checked, politics is also a human issue.

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1232/

  4. The Bloke next door

    Yes, it is

    Jwt, $10billon uk test and trace, £38billion..

    One is a complete waste of public money, the other will stun the world with images from the beginning of the universe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, it is

      "One is a complete waste of public money, the other will stun the world with images from the beginning of the universe."

      Should be:

      "One will stun the world with images from the beginning of the universe and one will stun you as an example of complete and utter waste of money/time/effort"

      :)

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Yes, it is

        Not a total waste of time.

        Plenty of govt connected cronies made a lot of money from it.

        Which is all that seems to matter in the UK these days, as politicians no longer seem to bother to hide the huge levels of corruption / crony capitalism at the heart of govt decisions.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, it is

        I'm afraid we're so used to waste (carillion here, bank bailout there), that the notion of 38billion loss is just a shrug. They might have lost 380billion, it would still be a shrug :(

        And the cherry on top: nobody's going to pay for 'this', in the sense of 'this mismanagement & punishment'. But, somebody (guess who?) will certainly pay for 'this' 38billion down the drain ripples. Think of how many of those 350 million-per-week-hospitals we could build for that, etc.

    2. pluraquanta

      Re: Yes, it is

      HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales aircraft carriers - £6 billion.

      Aircraft - £0, we couldn't afford them.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Yes, it is

        Old and outdated "news".

        Sep '21

        "Until now, the ships have embarked the fifth-generation jets but never have the two 65,000-tonne behemoths launched the fighters from their flight decks at the same time.

        That’s now changed with HMS Prince of Wales exercising with the RAF’s 207 Squadron in waters close to the UK, while, on the other side of the world, HMS Queen Elizabeth carries out flying operations over the Pacific with her jets from 617 Squadron and VMFA-211 of the US Marine Corps."

        1. pluraquanta

          Re: Yes, it is

          Those are just for trials, it's supposed to have 48 F35s, but they've only bought 7 of them so far.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Angel

            Re: Yes, it is

            7 > 0, no?

            1. pluraquanta

              Re: Yes, it is

              I was just being facetious. Though, even those 7 won't be available for another 2 years.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Yes, it is

                As of November last year, the UK owns 24 F35Bs, 3 of which are stationed in the US for training. That was the first link I found. On the other hand, facetious or not, yeah, there were none when the first carrier was launched, which was pretty embarrassing both for the UK and the US.

                I don't know how standard this is but when the "full fleet" of 74 is reached, it's expected that 20% will be in maintenance at any one time. That sounds like a lot to me.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Yes, it is

                  don't put all your eggs on one carrier, don't put all yo

                2. midgepad

                  Less embarrassing than it looks...

                  Ships take ages to build then last a long time.

                  Aircraft are built quickly, but the design is still improving - we have not been doing them long.

                  And, having built the ship, the Navy like to play with it a bit and make sure they can make it stop, turn, go, float.

                  And more subtle activities before which you'd be over-optimistic to fly difficult aircraft onto a different off it.

                  Festina lente isn't any unit motto AFAIK, but beats sinking or crashing.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Yes, it is

        "Aircraft - £0, we couldn't afford them."

        And we can't build them either. That's the cost of abandoning projects. TSR2 was a long time ago but in its aftermath the Harrier was the last gasp of the UK being able to defend itself by its own efforts.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Yes, it is

          Well given how things are going in Ukraine and the restocking problems the "special military operations" are encountering resulting in the rapid depletion of high-tech weapons, perhaps the UK would be wise to restore archery and sword production and training...

        2. sitta_europea

          Re: Yes, it is

          "... the Harrier was the last gasp of the UK being able to defend itself by its own efforts."

          You remember the Falklands?

        3. Cuddles Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Yes, it is

          We may not be able to build our own planes, but at least ground vehicles aren't such a problem.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_Ajax

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, it is

        Article in the Telegraph today by Lewis Page (ex-contributor to ElReg) about how the the "obvious" choice everyone else makes (catapult + capture wire as shown in TopGun and TopGun Maverick) would lead to an aicraft that was much cheaper and) could be used from ground bases and be a better choice than the Phantom leaving the RAF (ot their civil service support), squeezed by the Army on drones and now possibly the Navy on fighter jets, lobbying for the Navy to choose the VSTOL option.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Yes, it is

          leaving the RAF (ot their civil service support), squeezed by the Army on drones and now possibly the Navy on fighter jets, lobbying for the Navy to choose the VSTOL option.

          Is that you Amanfrommars ?

        2. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Yes, it is

          ISTR his articles here had a sometimes "interesting" take on the subject matter, and if the above summary is in any way truly representative of what the article actually says then this could well be another example of this.

          As general comments:

          Of all the navies around the world which operate carriers capable of handling fixed wing aircraft, the ONLY navy which cuirrently operates catapult-equipped carriers is the US, so declaring cats to be the obvious choice is only necessarily true for a specific set of criteria, otherwise everyone would be using them without a second thought as to what the alternative options might be...

          Whilst the STOVL design features of the F35B make it less efficient than either the A or C variants when deployed to bases where STOVL isn't required (i.e. normal airfields with nice long runways), there's nothing about the B which prevents it being based at such locations, so there's no "could be used from ground bases" argument to be made here.

          Whilst looking at the Telegraph front page, I noticed another familiar name from days of Register yore - Andrew Orlowski...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Yes, it is

            The F35 is just a stop gap solution. It's a good bet that within the lifetime of those carriers, manned warplanes will become largely obsolete and be replaced by drones. The lack of a catapult won't matter at all.

  5. vtcodger Silver badge

    A qualified success?

    As a technical achievement, it's really impressive. Seriously. So much stuff had to go right. And apparently it all has.

    As a management exercise, it's been pretty much a total debacle. It was originally proposed in 1995 with an even larger mirror and a projected project cost of $500M. Eight years later when it finally became obvious that wasn't possible, TRW was given a $825M contract for a scaled back version to fly in 2010. Here it is 2023, and it's finally out there only 13 years late and 1200% over (the 2003) budget. A bit extreme even for space tech.

    It'll surely be quite useful. My vague impression is that it's not quite as essential to astronomy as it was expected to be when it was conceived a quarter century ago because ground based telescopes have improved much more than was thought likely/possible back then. Perhaps an astronomy buff can enlighten us on that point. But compared to near bottomless and largely pointless money pits like the Space Shuttle, The International Space Station and the current programs to return to the moon without first spending the few billions to explore our satellite with rovers to see if there is any point in going back, I reckon this is a success story ... of sorts.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: A qualified success?

      Ground based telescopes can't possibly compete in the far-IR region due to the heat of our atmosphere, where they have improved is in correcting for time-varying shimmering in the near-IR / visible region. That is why JWST has to be out in cold space and even to have its mirror brought down to ~40K by the fancy heat blanket.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: A qualified success?

        Yes and no.

        In the Mid-IR 5-30um it's very difficult to do anything from the ground. But the bigger mirror, fancy optics, highly accurate pointing etc is for the 2um near-IR uses. You can do a lot of the mid-IR program with a much simpler spacecraft, although the location is nice.

        Modern 10+M class telescopes on the ground with adaptive optics/interferometry are pretty good at near-IR

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: A qualified success?

          For the original job of he JWST, to look at a large sample of dark age early galaxy formation, I think I would rather have 10 of something like the GMT for the same money.

          Of course I'd never get the budget for that or the staff posts to exploit it - compared to building space suff

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: A qualified success?

      It's pretty harsh to describe it as a managerial debacle. A debacle would have been they launched it for $1billion less, only for it to fail. A debacle would have been the optics were off (Hubble), or it failing to get cold enough, etc.

      The fact that it has had so many redesigns and then got a perfect result is actually a huge managerial success. To go back to the funding bodies and say "sorry guys, this just simply isn't going to work as it is" is actually a very good piece of management; the management was lead by engineering reality, and not by a conspiracy of optimism. They clearly had a sufficiently healthy relationship with the funding bodies that they weren't too scared of admitting problems.

      And for any novel endeavour, that's pretty much how it should be.

      Sure, the funding bodies have had to pony up far more over a far longer period of time than originally envisaged, but they've also had honest enough appraisals of the project status, and repeatedly had the option of cancelling the project at those points in time. The pay off is that, now, it's panned out far better than anyone really dared hope for, and especially the launch from Ariane which has doubled the spacecraft fuel lifetime to 20 years. Given that minimum mission life was set at 5 years (I think - corrections welcome) with a hoped for 10 years, the budget is likely to produce 4 x the expected amount of science.

      Looked at that way, years late and 1200% over the original budget can really be scored at 4 x service life, or only 300% over budget (in terms of science done per $ spent). That's not ideal - which would have been on time and on budget - but it's not bad.

    3. old_n_grey

      Re: A qualified success?

      "... a scaled back version to fly in 2010. Here it is 2023, and it's finally out there only 13 years late'

      You know when you're getting old, time flies by so quickly. Seems it was only this morning that it was 2022

  6. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Who picked up the bill?

    As someone whose taxes have not paid one singe ¢ towards the cost, I can say with no doubt whatsoever that it is definitely worth all the billions of $$$ that other people paid for it.

    P.S. I hope nobody suffers a sense of humour failure regarding the above!

  7. DS999 Silver badge

    The US has spent more than 5x that amount

    In various types of aid to Ukraine and NATO states accepting their refugees, spending which would not have been necessary had Putin not been a lunatic.

    The US and NATO countries will probably end up spending 50-100x the JWST cost when all is said and done, between the cost of supporting Ukraine, helping rebuild Ukraine, and beefing up security in NATO and soon to be NATO states that became necessary because of Putin's actions.

    This doesn't even get into the cost of suffering in Ukraine that can't be measured with money.

    So yeah, I'm totally down with spending $10 billion for something I think is great even if others may consider it unnecessary or frivolous, since it doesn't even register on the scale of unnecessary and frivolous spending because we still live in a world where a madman can violate another country's borders because his penis is too small.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The US has spent more than 5x that amount

      The irony is that the money is spent in the same place. You either pay $1bn to XYZ aerospace ( a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin) for the Telescope, or you pay $1bn for Javelins from ZYX aerospace (a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The US has spent more than 5x that amount

      Like most wars, the war in Ukraine is being fought for sound economic reasons, not because Putin is a lunatic, or Ukraine wanted to join NATO, or anything like that. The fact that major world powers have invested tens of billions, and are continuing to do so, should tell you that the prize at the end of it must be worth trillions. They certainly don't commit all that money for altruistic moral reasons just because some foreign people got blown up.

      But none of that is relevant to the JWST, which is absolutely awesome.

  8. Lars Silver badge
    Happy

    Am I right to claim it's the third cheapest and biggest space telescope so far.

    1. Spherical Cow
      Alien

      Depends on how many big expensive space telescopes have been launched in other planetary systems ;-)

  9. OldCrow 1975

    No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

    The JWST is a misappropriation of taxpayers dollars.

    The world must pool its money together for exploring space. The JWST is a boondoggle that will never meet expectations. Furthermore what is the monthly cost of managung, monitoring, controlling, repair and engineering of the JWST that is not directly related to capturing data/pictures of the Universe. Be honest. I am sure it is close to 500 million dollars a year. Scientists are a hungry greedy lot.

    Let's see the monthly costs of nanning of the JWST. We all should know what this boondogle is really costing you and I. Let's have an Audit.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

      The taxpayers dollars were more than recovered from the multiplier effect as the money spend ran through the US economy. Give the same money to Apple and it would be offshore faster than you could say the I in iPad and perform absolutely no benefit to the US economy.

    2. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

      Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

      Actually the lifetime cost of JWST is supposed to be about $10.8B over a period of 24 years.

      https://www.planetary.org/articles/cost-of-the-jwst

      "

      The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to cost NASA $9.7 billion over 24 years. Of that amount, $8.8 billion was spent on spacecraft development between 2003 and 2021; $861 million is planned to support five years of operations. Adjusted for inflation to 2020 dollars, the lifetime cost to NASA will be approximately $10.8 billion.

      "

      EASA and CSA together is just below another billion as well (launch, instruments, etc).

      So looks like about a billion for the next 24 years, which comes out to less then 50million a year.

      I think one of those F22 fighters cost $125million, just to buy them, not to mention the running cost, which is about $68,000 per hour of flight.

      So skip 1 F22 and get 3 years of JWST running cost covered.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

        I think it's also important to recognise that there's more to the contributions than just the money. Ariane's launch was so good that they're pretty sure there's fuel for 20 years. That's double what they were hoping for, and I think 4 times longer than the minimum mission life. NASA's $10billion is going to produce far more science than anyone ever even dreamt of. No wonder NASA expressed effusive thanks to the Ariane team!

        I wonder how this is going to influence future missions. NASA / EASA / CSA / etc. will all be keen that the next one that gets launched also gets a super-accurate launch. Ariane has shown themselves capable of delivering that, quite startlingly so. Ariane may now no longer be the cheapest launcher available, but it's surely going to remain a tempting option.

        It probably counts as one of the most extraordinary feats of metrology, to have measured performance, fuel flows, masses, fuel quality, and got is so right.

        The Launch Quality

        I remember watching the launch and separation, and the startled commentary when the solar panels started deploying early whilst it was still within sight of the Ariane launch bus. Of course it later transpired that that was because the launcher put JWST exactly in the right place at the right velocity.

        I think that to have been able to see the result of that quality directly, in video feed, is quite extraordinary.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

      Oooo errrr, who didn’t get a bicycle for his birthday!?

    4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The JWST is a boondoggle that will never meet expectations

      Have you read the article ?

      JWST is already exceeding expectations.

      Everyone is hoping that it will continue to do so for much more than its expected lifetime.

    5. Sp1z

      Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

      Whoops looks like you’re on the wrong website. I know it’s technically red at the top but don’t let that confuse you.

      Try facebook or trump’s new social media thing so you can stupid and angry over there instead.

    6. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

      > Scientists are a hungry greedy lot.

      I think this is the most WTF sentence I have encountered so far this year. On a scale where scientists are greedy, I wonder how you would classify Fortune 500 CEOs, top-tier entertainers, world-class soccer players, and lawyers.

    7. DJO Silver badge

      Re: No way is the JWST worth 10 Billion.

      20,000 engineers and programmers and miscellaneous scientists worked on the JWST, that's 20,000 families with more income than they might have otherwise expected, that's 20,00 people with a really good bit of experience on their CVs which may lead to more lucrative employment.

      Alternatively many but not all would be out of work for some time being a drain on society and would not have as good employment prospects. (And less tax would be raised)

      I know some of you will be clutching at your pearls and fainting while mouthing "but, but, but that's socialism". Well tough shit, yes using government money for big science and to stimulate the economy is a good use of taxpayers money, you not only get a worthwhile project but a load of employment opportunities.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    JWST has cost 10 billion

    Lets put some persepective here

    That money has been spent building and testing the thing over the past 15 years(the actual materials cost is bugger all.. the expense is eaten by the testing)

    And yet in that time the US defence department has recieved enough money in each one of those year to build SEVENTY telescopes.

    70 per year for 15 years... let that sink in.

    And before the "we need to defend ourselves" types start up.... in a war of USA vs rest of the world(non nuclear) and each side traded ships/tanks/aircraft 1 for 1 the US would win.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: JWST has cost 10 billion

      If the same accounting applies as in Hubble, a big chunk of that $10bn is going to paying for 1000s of students and postdocs to look at the data for the next decade.

      Of course a lot of university administration and overhead also got billed to it as well -big budgets tend to attract accounting depts

  11. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    Science!

    There will always be those who argue that governments should not fund basic science. They are wrong.

    The JWST is worth it because of the scientific results it is now providing. It wouldn't be worth more if it had been cheaper. That's beancounter thinking.

    The boffins produced the best telescope that they could within the constraints that they had. That's all we can ask. Without the lessons of the JWST, we wouldn't be talking about the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (a Hubble replacement currently under construction) or thinking about the other telescopes from the Great Observatories proposal in the National Academy of Science's Decadal Survey.

    So, yes, the JWST is worth it. Even if you add in the cost of all the pints.

    1. Excused Boots

      Re: Science!

      I can’t help but be reminded of (one of) the founder(s) of FermiLab, R.R. Wilson, who when being questioned by a Senate committee about the cost of the institution and was asked ‘how does this facility contribute to the security of then US’ answered ‘it doesn’t, except the existence of such a facility makes the US a little more worth defending’.

      OK, yes I have paraphrased, the actual answer in response to a question regarding the value of high-energy physics research to the security of the US was “It has nothing to do directly with defending our country, except to make it worth defending,”

      But let me ask another question;

      ‘What is the point of research into cancer treatments?’

      Now, sounds obvious doesn’t it, except think of it this way, every single person who is successfully treated for cancer, eventually dies anyway - so does that mean that the money spent on their treatment and general cancer research is ‘wasted’ and could be better spend on ‘other things’, not too sure what these 'other things’ could be though - I invite suggestions from other posters or interested parties.

      We (humanity) spends money on basic research because as a species, we absolutely have to know, 'what’s over that hill', 'what’s beyond that sea’, ‘what’s at the top of that mountain’? We will expend resources in finding out because we have to!

      Of course there are global issues closer to home which also need addressing, climate change, energy generation, food production, access to basic needs, water, food, sanitation, education, for all 8 (or so) billion of us, not just those who happen to be fortunate to live in the first world.

      But despite these, then the day when we, as a species, stops looking up and wondering ‘what is that in the sky and how can I find out’, is the day when we start the inevitable decline into extinction!

      1. Donchik

        Re: Science!

        Think that it was Larry Niven's quote, or similar.

        "Get in the habit of learning all you can one day it will be useful"

        I think it was in Protector

  12. Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds)

    Sharks in space suits...

    You know, I have one simple solution, and that is to have sharks in space suits with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads, swimming in a school around the telescope, shooting the micro meteorites.

    Is that all too much to ask?

    We could always go down the western road, and deploy Cows with Guns, or Chickens in Choppers (in space no one would hear the deafening roar)…

    The romantic in me would call upon Bruce Willis to save the day, but from experience, he is better with bigger rocks...

  13. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Meanwhile

    There's more drama with Russia: ESA has formally terminated cooperation with Russia on the Exomars rover, and Puutin canned Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

    When Putin says you're too big of a dick... dannnng.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile

      And in the same news, USA and Russia announce renewed cooperation in rides to the ISS.

  14. Terry 6 Silver badge

    10 Billion is only a lot....

    ...when you are thinking about your own pay packet. Not so much on a national let alone international scale. A single hospital can be over 500 million. And that's a relatively simple sort of build, by comparison.

    And a major bridge, e.g. (found online) using updated cash values -Bay Bridge (original): Oakland-San Francisco, 8.25 miles, opened in 1936, around $2 billion dollars at current values. Took three years and seven months. i.e the telescope cost the same as a handful of bridges.

  15. sitta_europea

    "Is the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope worth the price tag?"

    I dunno. Ask me again in a few years' time.

    As long as it doesn't get pointed at the sun by some spotty teenager or hit by a really big rock just before Christmas it ought to be worth many multiples of what it cost.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Question unclear

    Should JWST have cost what it did? No, not nearly as much.

    Was there a point, early in project, when it should have been abandoned in favour of cheaper alternative? Probably yes, with hindsight.

    Was there a point recently (say last five-ten years?) when it would have been better to write off JWST? No.

    Given what JWST cost, would this money have been better spent on ground-based telescopes? Not answerable: JWST is very much money – I think VLT cost was approx 1/10 of JWST so could have built really large number of really large ground-based telescopes (VLT is four 8.2m telescopes, four 1.8m telescopes, is usable as interferometer with really enormous baseline). But no ground-based telescope can do what JWST can do.

    Will there be more big visible-light space telescopes? I bet not: ground-based things are now so good we do not need a super-Hubble I think.

    Is what it cost a lot of money compared to what idiot politicians waste on stupid schemes? No: if you want to get more money for good causes do so by sticking sharp things up rear end of idiot politicians, not by taking relatively tiny money from science projects which make being alive mean something.

  17. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Yes a thousand times

    What is money? Just “value” signed into existence by diktat

  18. Zebo-the-Fat

    Just a point, 95+% of the billions spent on the JWST are not in in space, they are here on the ground. The engineers, scientists and technicians spend their wages here on Earth, pay taxes etc.

  19. Meeker Morgan

    Science will genuinely be advanced and never mind economic efficiency.

    Of the various ways the US federal government might spend 10 billion dollars, this is one of the least harmful.

    For comparison, that's roughly the price of a a Reagan class aircraft carrier.

  20. nautica Bronze badge
    Stop

    A minor oversight...

    The question posed by the article's title was not answered by the article.

    One of the tenets of the newspaper industry has always been, "If the headline asks a question, the answer is always 'No'."

    I, personally, don't think the answer is "No", but thought I'd submit this observation for the Reg's consideration and future (more) attention to detail.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: A minor oversight...

      There is of course a fallacy in that rule. It depend on how the question is worded, so change

      "Is the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope worth the price tag?"

      to

      "Is the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope a waste of money?"

      then the Answer "No" is opposite in meaning to the original question.

      Actually this is non-trivial, survey companies have found they can manipulate "opinion" by the wording of the questions, the same question stated in 2 different ways may get a 20% difference in responses.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bargain

    We've all got a cool new set of desktop background images and only for 10 billion? Bargain

  22. Binraider Silver badge

    Even if it lasts a month, the tax dollars invested back Into the supply chain have a value all of their own.

    If the science it uncovers helps to solve the blanks in physics, the practical applications of that may be economy changing.

    Better to be ahead of the game than let someone else get there first.

    Although try telling that to Ohio farmers paying $5/gallon. You would think they have no concern beyond the end of their noses..

    AHH wait...!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Total waste of money...

    Remember those miracle slimming pills adverts with Before and After photos with some miserable git badly lit wearing unflattering clothes in the Before photo and all happy and smiling in a glamour shot lighting in the After photo? Thats what the Hubble / Webb photos looked like to me. Those Hubble photos looked terrible with the worst possible color correction and other settings.

    But why the comparison with Hubble. A crappy clone of the KH-11 spy satellite with terrible primary optics and the same flawed solar panel unstableness as the first block of the KH-11's. Even with the first generation optics the first Keck telescope left it in the dust. For the same price as the first Hubble try to fix the optics mission..

    Lets see a side by side comparison of the Webb imaging with the current best earth based telescopes.Like the LBT or GTC. I know the Hubble did not hold up too well against Keck I let alone Keck II. Or even compare Webb imagery with some of the other 6m telescopes for that matter. (Not BTA-6..). Given what is the bread and butter of observation time on most big telescopes what the Webb might be able to do well really is not that important for actual research science.

    To give an idea of what a huge waste of money the Webb really is. Looks at the wiki list of the largest optical telescopes in the world. 44 of them. Plus the Webb. The total cost of those other 44 telescopes is less than half the cost of the Webb mission. So far. You could have build a lot of new telescopes on earth that would surpass the Webb for real world observation and financed a hell of a lot of research groups for many decades. And still have many billions left over for a few deep space missions.

    So Webb is an even bigger waste of money that the Hubble. If you were actually interested in advancing research science. At the original estimated budget of $600m the Webb might have been a reasonable investment. But everyone knew at the time that was just a made up number. A lie. And just like the Hubble would be a multi-billion dollar money pit if given the go ahead.

    Very apposite that this monstrosity is named after a life long government bureaucrat that no one outside NASA had ever heard of. Or most people who worked for NASA for that matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Total waste of money...

      Lets see a side by side comparison of the Webb imaging with the current best earth based telescopes.Like the LBT or GTC. I know the Hubble did not hold up too well against Keck I let alone Keck II. Or even compare Webb imagery with some of the other 6m telescopes for that matter. (Not BTA-6..).

      Sadly that is not possible. Is not possible,because the Earth has inconvenient atmosphere with inconvenient water vapour etc which is opaque to most infrared. If you want to make a good IR telescope you put it above the atmosphere, and preferably at L2. That's why Herschel was at L2, and why JWST is at L2. The things that Herschel did and the things that JWST is doing can only be done in space and really can only be done somewhere like L2 (or perhaps in permanently shadowed parts of Moon as someone said).

      JWST is not a super-Hubble: it is a different thing. As I said in other comment, probably there will never be a super-Hubble because visible-light telescopes can work well on the ground: IR telescopes can not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Total waste of money... yes, it is.

        Duh, I know about the atmosphere. And selective absorption. And I know all about adaptive optics going back to the 1970's. Plus I saw the very detailed side by side imagery comparison when the Hubble first went up. (after the washer cock up was "fixed") Hubble was a monumental waste of money. With two full time people to handle PR. Unlike Keck, to pick just one example

        As for the IR argument, well big deal. Some parts of IR are interesting. Most are not. Yeah, sure having a mongo IR mirror in space is nice for the very small number of IR researchers (its not a big field) but for $10 BILLION. Are you serious? The Herschel at $1 billion was already pushing the cost / benefit curve rather hard.

        The whole "answer fundamental questions" is the same old PR BS rolled out for every big budget mission. Some of the deep space missions have thrown up some fanatics observations impossible any other way. But thats all. None of these white elephant projects ever lock down "fundamental questions". Because they cant. Thats the BS that is fed to to the media to justify the obscene cost of these projects.

        You have these huge budget monstrosities which produce a fire-hose of data most of which will never be looked at. You need well funded research groups for that. Lots of them. And you could finance a hell of a lot of post grad / tenure track researchers just with the cost overruns for one part of the Webb project. Thousands of them. Talked to one of the NASA guys back in the 1980's about how many of the many thousand of reels of data from the Apollo missions had been looked at. Not many was the answer. No money. And the situation has only got worse since with the zetta (yotta?) bytes of data down-linked every year.

        Maybe its because I know all about the how and why of the grinding rat race just get minimal funding for research in astrophysics, and how many people have to bail because of this, that I have such a jaundiced view of the whole farrago. A $100m earth telescope (that's a big telescope) and a budget of $10m a year could fund a very nice mid sized research institute who could produce a lot of interesting science over the decades. You could buy a huge amount for genuine break though astrophysics for a faction of the cost of Webb. Hell, why not spend $100M a year financing several thousand researcher just going through the data they already have. Most of it is untouched. And will remain that way. Due to lack of money.

        Webb has little to do with science. Just a supporting a bloated bureaucracy and very lucrative contracts for vested interests. Spend some time with NASA old timers if you have any romantic illusions about how this really works. It aint pretty.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: Total waste of money... yes, it is.

          Well now. If you know all the things you say, then you would not have said 'Lets see a side by side comparison of the Webb imaging with the current best earth based telescopes', would you? Because you would have understood that such a thing is not possible. Unless you are a different coward but I think you are not.

          But you did say that.

          And if you were as clever as you think you are you would also have noticed that I did not claim JWST was worth $10E9 and indeed in other comments I have said that probably that it is not (but that in recent history it should not have been cancelled for a sort of inverse version of Concorde fallacy). Certainly it is extremely dear compared with ground-based telescopes (I believe VLT was about 1/10 price).

          And finally you would not have made this really very stupid comment:

          Yeah, sure having a mongo IR mirror in space is nice for the very small number of IR researchers (its not a big field) [...]

          I mean, that is really an impressively dumb thing to say. How many gravitational wave astronomers were there ten years ago? How many are there now? How many radio astronomers were there before 1933? How many X-ray astronomers before 1958? Here is thing: if no instruments for a certain type of astronomy exist then the number of astronomers working in that field will be very small, and that tells you nothing at all except that instruments do not exist.

          I am sure you are not a stupid. But your comments are stupid. Probably that is why you make them anonymous of course. Well, I am done replying to stupid comments: is entertaining to make fun of them but not so entertaining.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Total waste of money... yes, it is..ah, NASA fanboys..

            @the small snake

            So you know nothing about the professional astrophysics research area then. The IR part of the spectrum back when I first started plowing through the professional research literature in the late 1970's (well before your time) was a very small community of researchers. Just did a trawl through recent published paper activity in that area, still pretty small, relatively speaking. Despite all the instruments now available. Some rather nice.

            You seem to know nothing about the actual professional careers paths available to those who want an academic research career. And why you will find more PhD's in astrophysicists with published papers working in hi tech and fiance than doing actual research. Its all about money. And that has not changed in the last 40 plus years.

            I'm not talking about the fact that people make more money outside research. (Which they do) I'm talking very little money or no money to finance actual research positions. Being a glorified TA is not doing academic research. If you had ever seen the inside of a pure research institution you would know its a different world from a university department.

            Research money is very thin on the ground. When I talk to people in that area nowadays I hear exactly the same stories I heard back many decades ago. Its actually worse in the US the last few decades because the 1970's still had the afterglow of the huge expansion in research money in the 1960's.

            Whenever I talk to professional astrophysicists, or more often, recently ex professional ones, the story is always the same. Have you ever talked shop with someone in that area? Not just fawn over them like some star struck fan boy. Sounds like the answer is no.

            Its also obvious you have not the slightest idea of what goes on inside NASA and the various missions over the decades. The stories are just like the military end of the business. Only more so. I dropped in some references to real project balls up which anyone who knew anything about the area would have picked up on. You obviously know nothing about the area.

            If you had any real clue (your pathetic attempts at being patronizing are a dead giveaway) you would have seen from the get go is that my problem with these mega projects is that they have little to do with science. They are little different from the worst military boondoggles. Just spending a very small fraction of these immense budgets on supporting genuine research would actually generate actual real scientific knowledge. And give thousands of otherwise employed researchers an opportunity to do what they love to do most. Original research.

            But as there is no big money angle in that for the people who call the shots in DC you get totally pointless money pits like the Webb. A lot of money was made on that project. None of it going to science. Genuine science just getting the crumbs.

            But as you seem to know nothing about the area of professional astrophysics that argument went completely above your head. If I were you I'd stick to watching The Sky At Night. That sounds about you level of knowledge. And I'll stick to reading the Astrophysical Journal and those big beefy recent research books from Springer Verlag. Just like I have for many decades.

            Best not to bring a balloon to a knife fight. When the other party has a kukri. You will have your affectations very quickly popped.

  24. Ilgaz

    Bing

    MS Bing costed more and it is only good for wallpapers.

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