Phil Plait is undecided what to think about the James Webb Space Telescope. Should it be scrapped to allow funds to be freed up for other Astrophysical projects, or pushed through to completion?
The House says kill it, the Senate is deciding. Click here to see Phil Plait's of Bad Astronomy's discussion of the pros and cons of doing so.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), previously known as Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) is a planned next-generation space telescope, optimized for observations in the infrared. The main technical features are a large and very cold 6.5 meter diameter mirror, an observing position far from Earth, orbiting the L2 point, and four specialized instruments. The combination of these features will give JWST unprecedented resolution and sensitivity from long-wavelength visible to the mid-infrared, enabling its two main scientific goals — studying the birth and evolution of galaxies, and the formation of stars and planets.
Planned since 1996, JWST is a formal successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The telescope is an international collaboration of about 17 countries led by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.
JWST's capabilities will enable a broad range of investigations across many subfields of astronomy. One particular goal involves observing some of the most distant objects in the universe, beyond the reach of current ground and space based instruments. This includes the very first stars, the epoch of reionization, and the formation of the first galaxies. Another goal is understanding the formation of stars and planets. This will include imaging molecular clouds and star-forming clusters, studying the debris disks around stars, direct imaging of planets, and spectroscopic examination of planetary transits.