Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The James Webb Space Telescope----critical viewing

      It will be 100 times more powerful than Nasa.s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and has been called a techncal marvel. It is the awesome Janes Webb Space Telescope JWST for short--also of Nasa--which is expected to be be launched in September 2015. It will replace the HST.

      While the HST operates at an altitude of 560 kms, the mighty JWST will fly at 1.5 million kms opening a new great chapter in the world of astronomy and astrophysics.

      Even as space scientists, astronomers and astrophysicists are eagerly awaiting the launch of this new telescope, an Independent Comprehensive Panel Review has come down heavily on the way the JWST project is being managed by Nasa.

      On account of sloppy management, its minimum cost has shot up from 5.1 billion dollars to 6.5 billion dollars. Nasa adminstrator has admiited that ``cost performance and co-ordination have been lacking. No one is more concerned about the situation we find ourselves in than I am and that is why I am re organising the JWST project office at hq and at the Goddard Space Flight Centre,'' he said in a statement.

      Dated October 29, 2010, the report which was released on November 10,2010, says hat the JWST project was endorsed in 2000. ``It's cost has been escalating and there have been schedule delays. These are associated with budgeting and programme management and not technical performance. The technical performance on this project has been commendable and often excellent,'' the report states.

      According to the report, what has delayed the project ``is the lack of an operational and effective cost and progammatic analysis capability at Nasa hq.''  It says that the JWST project office at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre should be restructured to ensure that the ``project is now managed with a focus appropriate to the implementation phase.''

      It says that because of management problems, the launch of JWST has moved from June 2014 to September 2015. ``The project budget was fundementally flawed and the hq also lacked a robust independent cost and programme analysis capability. This capability within the agency plays a crucial role in checking project budget plans. Historically, the agency had such a capability that reported to the adminstrator. But, that function has not existed over a decade,'' it says.
     The report points out that corrective action taken by executive officials in response to what is known as ``red'' reports was not sufficient to correct the problems. Keeping all this in view the report has emphasised the need for improved communication between JWST project and the Goddard Space Flight Centre and Nasa hq.

     It has regretted that the science team connected with JWST has not played a significant role in certain important matters. ``In the numerous presentations and discussions, the science team was not identified as either a contributor to, or initiator of any recommendations. This apparent lack of input suggests that the project science team has adopted a ``hands off'' approach that is unfortunate in a project of this magnitude and imprtance,'' the report states.

    The report has recommended that the independent voice of the science team should be strengthened.


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