Hubble’s successor — the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — is in a heap of trouble. Things were already bad in October, when it was supposed to launch in 2014 and its price tag stood at $5 billion. Then in November, an independent review said its costs had risen to $6.5 billion and that it would not launch until 2015.
Now, a review board says the 6-metre segmented telescope may not even get off the ground in 2018. A baseline plan that includes the telescope launching in fiscal year 2018 is “unfeasible”, according to an internal memo from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that was first disclosed today by NASAWatch.
That means the price tag will surely rise further, since the mission has to maintain a marching army of contractors and technicians until launch.
Prominent astronomers still say that JWST will be sensational in spite of its cost. But what’s the point of spending months drafting a careful ranking of other important astronomy projects for the next decade if there isn’t money for anything other than JWST?
UPDATE: NASA public affairs released a statement Friday afternoon. It states, “NASA is still developing and discussing a new cost and schedule baseline plan for JWST. It’s simply premature to make any conclusions until a plan is completed and reviewed within the agency and by an outside team of experts.”