Michael's Dispatches

$1 Billion Telescope to Shoot Photos 10 Times Sharper Than Hubble’s

1 Comment

This is great, but our space research remains frustratingly primitive. We are like a bunch of monkeys with a few pocket monoculars.

Even this, plus the Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Compton (R.I.P.), everything up on the hill in Hawaii, plus all the hills around the world, plus all the Celestron PowerSeeker 70AZs ever built, are together little more than the equivalent of handing out a few monoculars to map the earth on horseback.

Oh, and the Webb space observatory, gasp, which project first began when, 1848? Will it ever get off the ground at this rate? We sink billions after billions with enormous delays into single-use telescopes.

If the Webb lands in pieces in the Atlantic Ocean just after launch from Florida, our single-use baby is gone.

The Hubble had a simple engineering problem that crippled the mission.

Luckily, the Hubble was in low earth orbit, and so we dispatched a multi-hundred million dollar space shuttle mission with a multi-billion dollar space shuttle to fix the washing machine, and that launch was a lost opportunity to do something else.

The Webb telescope, by contrast, will be far out of reach of any washing machine repair mission. Nobody will be going to fix Webb if there is an error. Nobody is going out there to add new, improved gear.

All of our eggs are in a single multi-billion-dollar-mega-time-delayed-basket.

We have repeatedly repaired of upgraded Hubble. We launched 5 (five!) manned Space Shuttle missions to Hubble, plus launch.

That's 6 (six!) super expensive, dangerous manned missions costing unknown billions of dollars.

For that mission cost and lost opportunity cost, we could have sent multiple even better Hubbles on unmanned rockets which are cheaper, far less dangerous, just as safe for the payload, and faster.

As for the Webb, Even if it works flawlessly and a 10x better and longer than advertised, it's still a single monocular, a virus-size straw, peering out at a universe so vast that it made Albert Einstein's hairs go crazy, stand up, and start talking to each other.

The amount of information that Webb will bring back will be no more than sending a biologist to the Amazon with a Mason Jar and saying, "Here ya go. Go get a representation of life in the Amazon with this Mason Jar. And by the way -- this jar costs 10 billion dollars. If you lose it or break it, we get nothing."

The Webb can get only snaps through microscopic pinholes. (Granted, if this works...we are going to need a bigger photo book.)

All these magnificent space telescopes are single-use models. How much would a top end Tesla car cost if we made just a single car from scratch? Heck, that could be 10 billion dollars.

Furthermore, we do not get any benefit from trial and error. It's more like, "Here's your 10 billion dollar Tesla, enjoy!

If a customer could drive it just for one month, the very next copy could be better, and at a fraction of the price. All the tooling is already done. The engineering and operations teams are all assembled. Make the next improved Tesla/Observatory at a lower cost, quick turnaround and launch.

The Hubble is very primitive today but with the same steadily improved basic design with updated components and benefit of operational experience -- we could be launching a new Hubble every year for 30 years. Hubble 2000, 2001, 2002....2025.

Likewise with Webb. Instead, we build one Tesla, the sink huge money into designing something completely different, and we end up with very few high-end space observatories.

Not to mention there are beautiful hilltops around the world just waiting for new observatories that can be upgraded and repaired using pickup trucks and not astronauts.

This is frustrating. Our future is not on this planet. Look what happens to every introverted culture on this planet. They end up dead or in ghettos.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    JDow · 3 years ago
    There are three ways you can get "it", whatever it might be, cheap, high quality, or quickly, Pick any two and the third is sacrificed. You cannot get all three. That's an observation probably about as old as human self-awareness.

    Telescopes can be optimized for multiple different qualities, radio waves of various wavelengths, IR, visual spectrum, x-rays, and beyond. They can be optimized for resolution (depth of field), breadth of field, sensitivity, spectral gathering, and so forth. You cannot get them all at once in one instrument. Physics is a party pooper that way.

    Somebody obviously tried to over-optimize some aspect(s) of the Jack Web telescope. And some other people failed to appreciate how thoroughly the telescope challenged the state of the art in several specialties. And some people in Congress let this continue.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      JDow · 3 years ago
      Yes, I know - James Webb. That Jack Webb stuck so firmly in my head tells you how old I am.


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