University of New Haven James Webb Space Telescope Discussion

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Question Description

There are tons of ideas on the web these topics and many others. • MESSENGER that orbited around Mercury and later was intentionally crashed into Mercury, The NASA TESS or Kepler spacecraft discoveries, extrasolar planets, future or current observatories, an observatory on the Moon; is it a good idea? • Discussion of an astronomical system that you find particularly interesting.

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School: Purdue University

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Running Head: JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE (JWST) AND WHY NASA IS
STRUGGLING TO LAUNCH IT

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and Why NASA is Struggling to launch It
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JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE (JWST) AND WHY NASA IS STRUGGLING TO
LAUNCH IT

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Introduction
We all have to be patient before we witness JWST, NASA’s most ambitious and
complicated space science mission to come to fruition. NASA recently announced that the
launch of JWST, a complex and huge tool intended to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, has
been postponed for more than 15 months. Although it was supposed to be launched in the Spring
of 2019, it has been pushed to 30 March 2021. The project has experienced developmental and
technical delays of a decade, and the recent delays have been triggered by several challenges that
have a longer time to resolve. The purpose of this paper is to examine JWST and reasons for the
delays in its launch. This paper is structured into the analysis of the history of JWST, what it
entails, its mission, why this topic is interesting, Reasons for the delays, and suggesting the next
course of actions that should be undertaken.
History of JWST, what it Entails, and its Mission
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) formally referred to as the Next Generation
Space Telescope (NGST) originated in 1996. In 2002, it was renamed after James E. Webb,
NASA’s second administrator who served between 1961 to 1968, acknowledged for playing a
major role in the Apollo program as well as establishing scientific research as a core NASA
Activity (Feinberg, 2019). The JWST is a milestone project initiated by the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration, the U.S space agency, with partnerships from the Canada Space
Agency and the European Space Agency.
JWST is a huge space telescope that is intended to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope.
It will offer improved sensitivity and resolution to Hubble Space Telescope and will support a
wide range of investigations in the fields of cosmology and astronomy, including observations of

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE (JWST) AND WHY NASA IS STRUGGLING TO
LAUNCH IT

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the most distant objects and events in the universe (Feinberg, 2019). It will also assist in
understanding the formation of stars and first galaxies, planets, and direct imaging of novas and
exoplanets. JWST will use state-of-the-art instruments and huge golf-coated mirrors to try to
view the first stars to shine in the cosmos. The JWST’s primary mirror (the Optical Telescope
Element) is made up of 15 hexagonal mirror segments.
The primary scientific mission of JWST can be categorized into four key goals; to
understand planetary systems and the formation of stars, to study the evolution and formation of
galaxies, to search for light from first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe after the Bing
Bang, and to study the origins of life and planetary systems (Greenhouse, 2016). This mission
will be achieved effectively by observation in near-infrared light as opposed to light in the
spectrum’s visible light. Therefore, the instruments of the JWST will not measure ultraviolet
light or visible like the Hubble but will have a huge capacity to execute infrared astronomy.
Why this topic is Interesting
The rising costs of the JWST and the schedule delays have triggered major interest in this
topic. Over time, the cost of this huge and ambitious project has continued to increase. The
development cost of the project has increased from $8billion to $8.8billion. On June 27, 2018,
NASA officials announced that the launch of JWST was shifted from May 2020 to March 21
(Kalirai, 2018). The postponement brings the total cost of this project to an estimated lifetime
cost to about $9.66billion and further delays are possible. Therefore, this study will help in
figuring out the reasons behind the delays and offering tangible recommendations to the relevant
agencies.
Reasons for the Delays

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE (JWST) AND WHY NASA IS STRUGGLING TO
LAUNCH IT

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The prime reason for the delays and cost overruns are human errors. A new Independent
Review pointed out that human errors at Northrop Grumman for the past few months have
delayed the development of JWST. For example, an incorrect solvent was employed to clean a
fuel valve, who an individual used the wrong voltage during a test. Members of Congress, in a
recent hearing, express huge dissatisfaction on how Northrop Grumman conducted its operations
(Kalirai, 2018). Most of the members of Congress argued that Grumman should be held liable
for its mistake. Although Northrop got the blames, experts have argued that the woes of JWST
ensued in the planning stage. Because this project is complex and unique, NASA did not have
realistic estimates from the beginning about how long it was going to take and how much it was
going to cost.
The chronic underestimation by NASA is another reason for the delay. A recent report by
report NASA’s inspector general identified a culture of optimism a...

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