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Odd Hearings Ahead On Webb Space Telescope Problems (Update)

By Keith Cowing
July 25, 2018
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Odd Hearings Ahead On Webb Space Telescope Problems (Update)

NASA’s next great space telescope is stuck on Earth after screwy errors, Washington Post
“Mission success is the cornerstone of everything we do. Getting it right is the most important thing,” said Scott Willoughby, program manager for the Webb at Northrop Grumman. “No, we don’t need a culture change. We need people to understand how hard it is. We need people to know that we’re going to get it right.”
Keith’s note: Given the immense cost overruns and delays with Webb, this has to be the most clueless, tone deaf comment I have ever heard from an aerospace company. “No, we don’t need a culture change.” Seriously? This week there will be an unusual pair of hearings – same committee, same topic, but a different witness lineup. Have a look:
Panel 1 – Wednesday July 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Hon. Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA
Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board
Prepared statements: Thomas Young; Jim Bridenstine; Rep. Babin; Rep. Smith;
Rep. Johnson; Rep. Bera
Panel 2 – Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 9:00 9:30 a.m.
Mr. Wesley Bush, chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman Corp.
Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board
Watch live
Hearing charter
“Since the JWST program has now breached under 51 USC 30104 notification conditions, the hearing discussion on July 25 will explore NASA program management effectiveness, program continuation and reauthorization, and budgetary implications across NASA’s entire science portfolio, to include the WFIRST program. The second part on July 26 will explore contractor issues and recommended improvements regarding contractor accountability.”

OK, so this is strange. Webb Space Telescope is more than a decade late and has busted its budget cap yet again – this time by $800 million – so much so that Congress is required, by law, to reauthorize the entire project. Oddly, the NASA Administrator (who pays for this project) and the CEO of Northrop Grumman (who gets paid for this project) are not testifying together – not even on the same day. But the JWST IRB chair will testify with both Bridenstine and Bush. Its almost as if NASA wants to get their viewpoint and that of the Webb IRB first and then Northrop Grumman has 24 hours to get their act together – except – Congress usually wants prepared testimony submitted a day or more in advance. Or maybe there is a lot of looming tension and Congress does not want a cage match between NASA and Northrop Grumman. Stay tuned.
Keith’s update: Looks like NASA has some pre-recorded spin that they will air on NASA TV after the first hearing on Wednesday:
“NASA Television will air a conversation about the progress and promise of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope with Nobel Prize winner John Mather at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 25. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen will join Mather, senior project scientist for the Webb Telescope, to talk about the challenges of building the world’s premier space telescope and why it’s all worth it.”
Northrop Grumman’s Webb Space Telescope Charm Offensive, earlier post
Clueless Webb Telescope Advertisement From Northrop Grumman, earlier post
More Cost Increases And Delays For Webb Space Telescope, earlier post
Pieces Are Falling Off Of James Webb Space Telescope, earlier post
Where Oh Where Did All Of That Webb Money Go?, earlier post

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.