A cut too far.

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Trippy, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Seriously folks...

    What's wrong with this picture.

    Congress is (proposing) cutting NASA's budget by two billion, and canceling the James Webb Space Telescope, but Spending Twenty billion on air conditioning tents in Iraq?

    But that's okay, It's only Science.

    I mean they've got Hubble, what do they want another one for?

    I mean, it's not like Hubble contributed anything other than some pretty pictures, right?

    We don't need science, science is too expensive.
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  3. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Well I'm disappointed that they had to cancel it, but this BS about spending $20 Billion on air conditioning tents in Iraq each year has to be put to rest.

    To put that in perspective, in the last fiscal year the Pentagon spent approximately $15 billion on energy for all military operations around the world.

    But over 70% of that was for JET FUEL.
    Then there is the diesel for trucks and tanks and ships etc.

    The total fuel bill in Afghanistan last year was only $1.5 billion but that was used for Heating and Cooling and also for all aircraft, trucks, combat vehicles and electrical generation.

    So no, it doesn't cost $20 billion a year for air conditioning tents in Afghanistan.

    As to NASA funding, it was cut by $1.6 Billion:

    NASA is funded at $16.8 billion (a 10% cut from last year)
    •$3.65 billion for Space Exploration (new crew vehicle and launch system).
    •$4.1 billion for Space Operations (mainly the ISS, as the last shuttle launch is scheduled for this Friday)
    •$4.5 billion for NASA Science programs (only $431 million below last year’s level).


    The appropriations bill terminated the funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which they say is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.

    Which unfortunately seems to be true.

    The JWST was supposed to cost $1.6 billion and launch this year but in the latest technology review NASA says the telescope can’t launch until at least 2018 (outside analysts suggest that the launch date would be past 2020) and the latest estimated price is now up to $6.8 billion (and probably much more with a launch date 7 years off).


    In the good news, NOAA got $4.5 billion including a Polar satellite system and the National Science Foundation got $6.9 Billion.

    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
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  5. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    20 Billion comes from Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson, who was Cheif Logistician to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq - according to him it includes the costs involved of shipping the fuel to power the equipment, the cost of getting the equipment there, the cost of setting up the infrastructure, and so on and so forth.
    EG: Source


    That's not a good reason to cancel the program.

    If poor management is causing the problem, then improve the management.

    If the Project is over budget, then investigate why.

    Oh wait, that's right, it's already been done.

    The project is over budget, because the originaly projected budget was unreasonably low.

    Still not a good reason to cancel the project - I mean seriously, the comments about extra money and poor management are coming from things like the practice of deferring work until next year once this years budget cap is reached - probably as a result of this whole smaller-better-faster paradigm they've been operating under - which was pushed on them to get more science for less money.

    Canceling the project is just stupid, and it's a huge blow for science, and it doesn't actually address the problems causing the cost over runs in the first place.

    I mean think of it this way how many of NASA's projects have far exceeded their original design specs? The MER's - designed to last 90 days. 3,000 days later, and one of them's still running (the other got caught on a rock, bogged down in some sand, and didn't survive winter).

    Look at the EPOXI mission - Deep Impact was over and done with, so they retasked the space craft, revisited the same comet a second time (first time that the same spacecraft has visited the same comet twice) and visited a second comet (another first).

    But no. War is easier than science.
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  7. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, the story has been repeated so often it has Urban Legend status.

    The problem is he didn't (and hasn't) backed up the wild figures he gave to NPR.
    The DOD however did have the actual figures and quickly showed that he was wrong.

    Very wrong.

    Sure it is.
    It's not going to fly for nearly a decade and it's cost is soaring far beyond what they originally claimed it would cost a reasonable response is to scrap it and build something better than Hubble and launch it sooner and for a lot less than this boondoggle.


    Done, see above.


    Let me try that one on my Boss and see how well it works.
  8. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    That's nice. You understand I don't actually care though don't you - I mean even according to your sources the Military still spends 15GUSD, just on energy and NASA is being begrudged 1.6GUSD because it's taking longer and costing more than they originally estimated it would.

    This is better than Hubble - JWST originated as the NGST which was planned to be Hubbles replacement/successor.
    It's also the replacement to Spitzer.

    Of course - if NASA had been given more money, rather than being forced to do more for less money, wqe wouldn't be having this conversation, the JWST would be closer to launching, and it would (ironically) be closer to budget.

    As for this next bit, seriously Arthur? I gave you credit for being much smarter than this.
    No, not done and done. Canning the project does nothing to fix the management. Fixing the management fixes the management. Canning the project simply cans the project, postpones fixing the management and sets up the next big project to meet the same fate.

    Now you're just being daft.
    You and I both know there are two ways a budget can be exceeded - the initial projections can be reasonable, but the costs encountered are unreasonable, or, the initial estimates can be unreasonable, and it can run into reasonable costs.

    NASA have explicitly admitted that they stuffed up their initial estimates, which resulted in them eating their reserves as part of the base cost, and having no many set aside for when the things they predicted might go wrong, did go wrong.
  9. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Yes I understand, I was just trying to kill this urban legend when I had the chance.

    I realize that, it's supposedly 100 times better than the Hubble.
    They should have settled for 50 times better and they might have been able to build and launch the thing.

    Or the other option is to get ESA to pay it's fair share (they are in for 15%).
    ESA annual budget: USD$6 billion, population of 420 Million people
    USA is 310 million people and yet NASA annual budget: USD$16 billion

    Or to put the project in persective, they started this thing in 2000. The Prime Contractor was selected in 2002 and in late 2010 NASA officially forecasted JWST would blast off in 2014, but after the Casani report was issued NASA moved the launch date back at least 4 years and admitted how over budget the program is.


    But that wasn't what caused the problems with this project. They were given plenty of money.

    The hardware they have been developing can still be used, they just have to rethink this.

    Watch what happens now.

    The brains behind this will rethink the mission and come up with a way to salvage it, but at a lower cost and a more reasonable flight schedule and more affordable technology.

    But I do believe it will take new project leadership to make this happen.

  10. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    And the same government has spent how many Trillion in Irag and Afghanistan over the same time?

    I didn't say it was exclusively what caused the problem.
    I said it was part of the problem, and it was - it says so in the report I linked to.
    Part of the problem was the deferal of work. Defered work costs more money than not defering it does.

    Personally, (especially seeing as how they've already made six of the mirrors, and the structural frame IIRC) I hope that what happens next is that seeing as how we're only talking about a proposed budget, that the budget does not get passed by congress, and that the revised budget sees less money spent on war, and more money spent on science and education.

    I do agree with you on one thing though - Bolden does need to kick somebodies ass over this. The budget should have been prepared properly in the first place.
  11. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

    Hey, tell Congress we're looking for WMD's on Mars and maybe they'll cough up the cash.
  12. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    I saw someone suggest that if they changed it's name to the "James Webb Communist Crusher" it'd get all the funing it needs

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  13. jmpet Valued Senior Member

    NASA needs to start thinking smaller. Maglev rails instead of heavy thrusters, gliders instead of rockets. The tech world is passing NASA by and within a decade we'll get more privately than from NASA in science.

    Correct me if I am wrong but the Space Shuttle costs $1.5 billion per launch. And for what? To deliver food to the ISS???

    The Space Shuttle lifts 2,000 tons into space- for the same $1.5 billion you can place 100 small machines into space and beyond.

    I am slightly disappointed the Space Shuttle never had a mission to the moon. And it is completly capable of doing it- releasing rovers or whatever to the moon in its huge cargo bay... a massive underuse of good tech.

    NASA needs to catch up with technology. For $200,000 I can go to space- top that, NASA!
  14. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    You're wrong.

    The shuttle costs about 1/3 of that per launch and not to deliver food to the ISS.

    The Shuttle BUILT the ISS and also lofted other major satellites, like Hubble and of course SpaceLab.

    It was the only vehicle capable of lifting/transporting many of the modules of the ISS and also supporting their assembly.

    Routine crew transfers and resupply of the ISS though is via the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft and Progress resupply vehicles.

    As of June 2009, there have been 33 Progress flights to the ISS and roughly as many Soyuz flights (there is always a Soyuz docked to the ISS).


    Then there is the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, also for resupply.


    Then there is JAXA's H-II Transfer Vehicle, also for resupply.


    Then there is NASA's new Cygnus resupply craft being built by Orbital Science Corp.


    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  15. jmpet Valued Senior Member

    "Roger A. Pielke, Jr. has estimated that the Space Shuttle program has cost about US$170 billion (2008 dollars) through early 2008. This works out to an average cost per flight of about US$1.5 billion."

  16. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

  17. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    Why can't other countries like China, Russia and Australia help support the space program because it helps everyone , everywhere. The ISS was a joint project by about 8 countries so lets get them on board with other projects as well.
  18. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Agreed. We share the information we obtain with everyone, but pay the costs entirely by NASA. Let's have more joint missions to the asteroids, telescopes in space, etc.
  19. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    So then why isn't the government asking for others to put something in toward helping humanity? NASA could also do the same with its name and reputation. But where are the media??? Why aren't they asking these questions?
  20. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    They are - the ESA and the CSA are both also contributing to the JWST, the screwup though was NASA's.
  21. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

    For those who didn't know, the space shuttle is completely unsuitable for any sort of extra-orbital missions. It doesn't even achieve escape velocity, it just goes fast enough to enter into an orbit high enough above Earth to avoid atmospheric drag. The reason the astronauts experience weightlessness is because they're in a constant state of freefall, but their sideways motion causes them to miss the Earth every time they fall towards it. Virgin Galactic's million-dollar "space" flights, if they ever become a reality, won't even reach the orbital velocity or altitude of a space shuttle, they will just skim the edge of the Earth's atmosphere for a few seconds, as it would require several times as much fuel and expense in order to reach a proper orbit.
  22. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    And incidentally, that "explains" why you experience weight(fullness) when you don't have collective sideways motion.

    In other words on the surface, the part of your body that accelerates downwards has corresponding parts that don't, so you "feel" the weight of the mass of your body because parts of you are moving sideways.

    I think that deserves a comment: the idea that the design of a mission as complex as JWT can be "salvaged" at lower cost by using more affordable technology overlooks quite a few things. Your comment amounts to hubris, and doesn't seem to be based on rational thinking.
    How easy do you think it is to redesign a space telescope to meet lower cost requirements? How complex is the JWT and how long would it take to substitute lower-cost technology; what would the redesign cost? What percentage is the launch vehicle of the overall mission cost?
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  23. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Well if you consider, after 8 years of work, they now think it will take longer and cost more to do the mission then when they ORIGINALLY estimated it, yes I think they need to re-think the mission. They were shooting for 100 times better than Hubble.

    Yes it is a guess, but since the techology seems not to have been a problem and they have completed quite a few of the mirrors, it would seem a de-scoping could lower the cost and the time.

    It's not an unreasonable assumption and faced with doing that or doing nothing I'm betting the smart people working on it would find a way.

    (It would be Hubris if I said I had a way)

    Personally, I'd rather have a Space telescope that costs far less and is just TEN times better than Hubble but could be launched sooner, then bet all this money on one that isn't going to launch till at best 2018 and of course with the chance that it COULD all go up in smoke.


    The Launch vehicle is peanuts in comparison. It was going up on the Ariane.


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