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Webb telescope finally arrives at launch site in French Guiana

Webb deployment

After almost twenty years of construction (a decade behind schedule) and a cost of $10 billion, ($9.5 billion over budget), the James Webb Space Telescope today arrived at the processing facility at Arianespace’s French Guiana spaceport, where it will be prepared for a December 18, 2021 launch on an Ariane 5 rocket.

Once launched the telescope, which is not a replacement for Hubble because it observes in the infrared (not optical) and is optimized for deep space cosmology, will take two weeks to reach its orbital position about a million miles from Earth, as shown in the graphic.

Let us all cross our fingers and toes that it all works as designed, for if it doesn’t this will be the biggest failure ever in the history of NASA.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Jason Lewis

    I’ve seen two numbers for the project’s original budget and I’m wondering which number is correct. I’ve seen $1.6 billion as well as $500 million. Was the $500 million intended as merely the first installment where more was expected? Or was that the estimate for the whole project from the beginning. If so, then where did the $1.6 billion come from?

    Even the Wikipedia article seems confused. Early in the text there is:
    “Development began in 1996 for a launch that was initially planned for 2007 and a 500-million-dollar budget”

    Later in the article, there is:
    “The telescope was originally estimated to cost US$1.6 billion “

  • Jason Lewis: The project was first sold to Congress AND the astronomy community at the lower number, in order to get them to buy into it. It was a lie. It was also normal operating procedure for such projects.

  • jt

    Nice, so the development began in ’96, so this thing is completely obsolete..

    You know it going to blow up on the launch pad right?


    Gotta build a new one

  • wayne

    “the buy in” (not to be confused with the “inside/outside job,” or the more blatant “cornhusker kickback.”

    “The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It”
    Robert Zimmerman
    WGBH / The Explorers Club 2008
    *starts around here…..

  • kilroy

    Why a French rocket? Don’t we have enough launching capabilities?

  • Kilroy: Europe is paying for the launch in exchange for getting observation time for its astronomers. This was a political deal made almost two decades ago.

  • Mark

    Wayne – thanks for referring to Bob’s ‘The Universe in a Mirror:…” video talk.
    I had seen it a few years ago, but decided to watch it again, as I had forgotten aspects of that amazing story.
    I think that book, the subsequent history of Hubble and now the launching of Webb could be made into a streaming TV mini series of at least three episodes. I hope Mr. Z.s Hollywood agent is reading this and makes it happen pronto.

  • Edward

    Robert Zimmerman wrote: “It was also normal operating procedure for such projects.

    The practice developed out of the “cost-plus” type of contract. Cost-plus contracts were initiated because it was difficult to accurately estimate the time and cost of new technologies (which are rampant on the JWST). To protect contractors from losing money on a development project, the military (and then NASA) used cost-plus contracts.

    Abuses followed when contractors discovered that both the military and NASA liked to change project requirements, sometimes well after it was timely to make changes, as in: hardware was already built. The practice became: bid low, get the contract, then change the cost and schedule the first time — and every subsequent time — the customer changed the requirements. Some of the increases are easily justified, which allows the rest of the hikes easy to approve. Some, most, or all of these abuses could be eliminated if Congress were to defund projects that went too far over budget or whose schedules slipped too far.

    JWST had a tragic failing. Most new space technologies go through a standard technology maturity model, called the technology readiness level. A concept is tested on the ground, then is tested in space on a satellite in which the tech is not the primary payload, and only once it is tried and true is it made into a primary payload. For JWST, many of its technologies are being proved on this flight rather than on previous flights, where it did not matter whether it fails. This is an exception to the “most new space technologies” statement, earlier in this paragraph. This meant that there were many problems implementing some of the technology used on JWST, justifying the schedule slips and cost increases.

    One sorrowful part is that JWST was supposed to make observations coordinated with the Hubble telescope, but due to the delays we have lost a decade worth of such synergetic observations. Another sorrowful part is the astronomy that would have been funded had JWST cost its original price. For what it cost us, we should have had 20 JWST telescopes by now. The overruns resulted in lost opportunities in astronomy that we will either have to delay or will never be able to do.

  • Localfluff

    I’m afraid that president Macron will say “non!” And it won’t launch. Because he is childish, as are his political counterparts. And he want to revenge AUKUS, that stuff about the future Australian submarine deal. Completely unrelated, but politics ties everything together into a mad knot that prevents everyone from doing anything.

    I have abandoned my hopes of JWST. I just want it to go away one way or another and look at the restart of NASAs astrophysical efforts. Which is already looking up after the dark decade of JWST blocking everything.

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