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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 25 2017, @10:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-actual-scientific-target-needed dept.

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) may have some of its capabilities scaled back due to overspending on the James Webb Space Telescope and the added cost of a coronagraph that was demanded by exoplanet researchers:

NASA will have to scale back its next big orbiting observatory to avoid busting its budget and affecting other missions, an independent panel says. The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is due for launch in the mid-2020s. But 1 year after NASA gave the greenlight its projected cost is $3.6 billion, roughly 12% overbudget. "I believe reductions in scope and complexity are needed," Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., wrote in a memo that NASA released last Thursday.

Designed to investigate the nature of dark energy and study exoplanets, WFIRST was chosen by the astronomy community as its top space-based mission priority in the 2010 decadal survey entitled New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. But the start of the project was initially delayed by the huge overspend on its predecessor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2019. Then last year, a midterm review of the 2010 decadal survey warned that WFIRST could go the same way and advised NASA to form a panel of independent experts to review the project.

[...] Zurbuchen's memo to Scolese directs the lab to retain the basic elements of the mission—the 2.4-meter mirror, widefield camera, and coronagraph—but to seek cost-saving "reductions." Hertz says this will require reducing the capabilities of instruments but ensuring they remain "above the science floor laid down by the decadal survey." The coronagraph will be recategorized as a "technology demonstration instrument," removing the burden of achieving a scientific target. The change will also save money, Hertz explains. Hertz says exoplanet researchers shouldn't worry about the proposed changes. "We know we'll get good science out of the coronagraph. We'll be able to see debris disks, zodiacal dust, and exoplanets in wide orbits," he says. Astronomers wanting to see Earth twins in the habitable zone may be disappointed, however.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday October 25 2017, @11:42PM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <> on Wednesday October 25 2017, @11:42PM (#587617) Journal

    To be fair, WFIRST is based on a donated National Reconnaissance telescope [].

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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday October 26 2017, @12:39AM

    by bob_super (1357) on Thursday October 26 2017, @12:39AM (#587642)

    It's wonderful that NRO had two brand-new $250M telescopes (plus parts) deemed obsolete, and definitely got money to replace that, while NASA has to fight for pennies.

    Given the quality of the discarded NRO payloads, can anyone objectively explain how there can still be a war on drugs, Daesh, or Taliban?

  • (Score: 2) by qzm on Thursday October 26 2017, @01:18AM

    by qzm (3260) on Thursday October 26 2017, @01:18AM (#587656)

    From our friends at Wikipedia.. ' According to one NASA estimate using an NRO telescope would raise the cost of WFIRST by $250 million above its $1.5 billion budget.'

    Note that those were old projections, we are now at 3.6 Billion? nice - for the contractors.

    So dont worry, NASA (through its contractors, and controlled by the govt of course) manage to look that gift horse in the mouth and use it to increase costs even more.

    THIS is the problem with NASA these days, not the concept of NASA, but the implementation - it has gone beyond a joke.