Science Friday on JWST

Science Friday on JWST

Yesterday, National Public Radio’s Science Friday host Ira Flatow interviewed Michael Turner of the University of Chicago and science writer Ron Cowan about the plight of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The audio of the program is available on Science Friday’s website.

Turner defended the program, using the age-old argument that NASA’s programs push the envelope of science and technology and that “once in a while” there is an overrun. Not all would agree with Turner on the frequency of cost overruns. A 2004 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report found an average of 45 percent cost growth for the 72 NASA programs it analyzed.

Cowan pointed out that supporters of the project were not forthright about its costs in the beginning, and Turner agreed that was one of the lessons learned from last year’s Casani report on JWST — that one must be upfront about the costs. As for now,Turner argued that the program was about 75 percent done and ending it now would be “penny wise and pound foolish.”

Cowan said he is concerned that NASA is not saying how much more JWST will cost if the launch slips to the early 2020’s. Turner countered that NASA has come up with a new plan for completing it and is negotiating with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and some things have to be done behind closed doors.

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