Most Americans think NASA’s $10 billion space telescope is a good investment, poll finds

Authored by and submitted by TheTjalian

Soon after NASA shared the first stunning images taken by the agency’s new, powerful James Webb Space Telescope, a new online opinion poll asked Americans: was the nearly $10 billion observatory a good investment? And the resounding answer: yes.

Today, marketing and data analytics firm YouGov released an online poll of 1,000 Americans, asking them their overall opinion of NASA and whether or not various space programs have been good investments. Roughly 70 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of NASA, and 60 percent thought that the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, was worth it.

Seven in 10 Americans have a very or somewhat favorable view of NASA; just 13% view NASA unfavorably and 16% say they don't know.

Similar shares of Democrats (79%) and Republicans (72%) view NASA favorably. — YouGov America (@YouGovAmerica) July 19, 2022

YouGov notes this poll was conducted between July 14th and July 18th, after NASA released the first dazzling JWST images of sparkling galaxies and nebulas on July 12th. Those images appear to have been enough to outshine some of JWST’s past drama. The telescope may be in space and operating now, but it’s been a long and harrowing journey getting to that point. Prior to its launch, JWST’s development was marked by significant delays and budget overruns. Originally, NASA and mission planners hoped to launch the telescope sometime between 2007 and 2011 for a relatively low cost of $1 to $3.5 billion. But the telescope went through a dizzying array of schedule slips and mishaps. By the time JWST finally launched on Christmas Day 2021, its total lifetime cost stood at $9.7 billion.

NEW: Following the release of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, 3 in 5 Americans say the telescope has been a good investment. One-quarter (26%) are unsure, and 13% say it has been a bad investment. — YouGov America (@YouGovAmerica) July 19, 2022

To be fair, the nearly $10 billion price tag for JWST is the lifetime cost for NASA, so that includes the bulk of its development since the early 2000s, as well as the first five years of its operations, according to the Planetary Society. And the Planetary Society also notes that JWST’s total costs account for 0.0095 percent of all US spending between 2003 and 2026.

Of course, most of the people polled probably weren’t thinking about the price tag when they were looking at the intricacies of the Carina Nebula that JWST captured in incredible detail. When shown the already-iconic picture, people waxed poetic. “Astonishment in the face of incredible beauty,” one person who replied to the YouGov poll said. “I was quite overwhelmed by it,” another wrote. “It’s magnificent to be able to see so much detail in such a tiny section of the universe.”

“Astonishment in the face of incredible beauty.”

And those first images are just a small teaser for what’s to come. Stunning photos and revelations are only going to keep coming the longer the telescope operates in space. And the respondents to the poll said they’re eager for more. “Some applauded NASA’s ongoing space exploration for its broader contribution to scientific knowledge and others said they look forward to seeing what else the telescope reveals,” YouGov wrote in its release.

YouGov also polled the respondents about other space investments, including the Hubble Space Telescope currently in orbit around Earth, the International Space Station, and the Space Shuttle program. All received generally favorable reviews.

Destination_Centauri on July 20th, 2022 at 15:32 UTC »

Well, I know this is uplifting news, but I think it is still very important that people keep in mind one aspect of the reality of that cost-tag:

The James Webb Telescope did NOT need to cost 10 billion dollars!

Not even close to that. It could have easily been done for far-far cheaper.

Essentially, the reason it cost 10 billion was due to some rather insane antics on the part of the contractor/builder, Northrop Grumman, in which they were actually continuously paid more money over the course of a couple of decades, the more they dragged their feet, and the more they delayed James Webb, due to the terms of the contract.

Again, just to let that sink in: James Webb should have launched well over a decade ago, at a fraction of the price!

BUT... that said...

In keeping with the spirit of this subreddit, on an uplifting note:

NASA finally got real sick and tired of the delays, and took action.

This happened after the first shake test of the James Webb Telescope, to determine if the telescope could survive the vibrations of a rocket launch.

In which during that shake test, I kid you not: a whole slew of nuts and bolts came flying off the James Webb telescope structure!

So that was it for NASA! They had enough! NASA was finally seriously, totally p () ssed off at Northrop Grumman, and in order to make sure the telescope was reworked, rechecked, rapidly, and FINALLY made ready for launch, well over a decade late, NASA sent in a team of supervising managers and engineers (against the terms of the contract) to California, to watch and supervise the progress daily progress.

And FINALLY, that's when real progress was rapidly made, and James Webb finally launched shortly thereafter.

Plus, in FURTHER uplifting news:

It looks like, going forward, that NASA is going to more vigorously oppose contracts that actually reward big corporations the more they delay and drag their feet on a NASA project.

Those contracts were entered into due to political pressures, including the likes of the infamous Richard Shelby from Alabama, who forced all kinds of really bad contracts on NASA for decades, but THANK GOD Shelby is now retired and gone!

And now a lot of progress he held up for decades can be unfurled.

So ya, this is an uplifting story in the end, in which NASA triumphs, and we will likely have better contracts going forward, that will hold big corporations accountable for delays, or purposely producing shoddy space craft.

havocLSD on July 20th, 2022 at 14:56 UTC »

Great! Now do a poll on Americans view of our military budget.

jackliquidcourage on July 20th, 2022 at 14:52 UTC »

Space is cool and the new images of galaxies are awesome. I'd rather my tax dollars go to this than to bombs in Yemen any day.