NASA officials yesterday confirmed that, due to the new work conditions and the lock down imposed by the Wuhan flu panic, the launch of the James Webb Space telescope will not occur in March 2021.
“We will not launch in March,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the space agency’s associate administrator for science. “Absolutely we will not launch in March. That is not in the cards right now. That’s not because they did anything wrong. It’s not anyone’s fault or mismanagement.”
Zurbuchen made these comments at a virtual meeting of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board. He said the telescope was already cutting it close on its schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the agency and that the virus had led to additional lost work time. “This team has stayed on its toes and pushed this telescope forward at the maximum speed possible,” he said. “But we’ve lost time. Instead of two shifts fully staffed, we could not do that for all the reasons that we talk about. Not everybody was available. There were positive cases here and there (in the surrounding area, not on site). And so, perhaps, we had only one shift.”
No new target date has been set, though the comments even hinted that they might not be able to do it in 2021.
Webb will cost 20 times more than originally budgeted ($500 million vs $10 billion) and is now more than a decade behind schedule. In the process, those overages and delays wiped out almost all of NASA’s other astronomy projects during the 2010s.
But don’t worry! Once Webb launches the task of wiping out more astronomy projects with overages and delays will be courageously taken up by NASA’s Roman Space Telescope (formerly WFIRST), already behind schedule and over budget, and it is still only in the design phase.
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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
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