Search form

AAS President Megan Donahue's Statement on the James Webb Space Telescope

Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 12:57

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be the most ambitious and capable space telescope humanity has ever built. It will transform scientific understanding of our place in the universe, enabling discoveries from the earliest state of the universe to the birth of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems, as well as the characterization of habitable environments in the solar neighborhood.

I share the frustration of my fellow members of the astronomical community eager to realize the extraordinary potential of this observatory, but I also share the certainty that mission success is paramount, even if that unfortunately requires further delay and an increase in development costs. JWST is absolutely worth the wait. I am pleased with NASA’s commitment to completing JWST, and would expect nothing less. NASA officials are committed to implementing all recommendations of the independent review board and will continue to look critically at the practices and procedures happening at the contractor, project, center, and headquarters levels to improve performance and ensure mission success. Significant cost and schedule overruns driven by preventable human errors are unacceptable, particularly on such an incredibly complex mission. I am confident that NASA has learned, and will continue to learn, from this experience. Carrying those lessons forward to the next generation of ambitious NASA missions is essential to ensuring a balanced, world-leading space-science program.

I encourage Congress to reauthorize JWST at the updated cost and schedule estimate, and continue to conduct rigorous oversight of the project, its prime contractor, and NASA. Congressional oversight is a key component in maximizing the scientific return from public investment in the astronomical sciences.

Megan Donahue
Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Michigan State Univ.
- Grew up on a farm near Inland, Nebraska. Attended a diocesan Catholic school in Hastings, Nebraska. Obtained an S.B. degree in physics from MIT in 1985 and a 1990 PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado,...
AAS Controlled Subject Tags: