Yesterday, NASA announced that its premiere next-generation astrophysics mission, the James Webb Space Telescope, is overbudget and behind schedule.
The total cost of the launching the telescope may end up at $6.5 billion, the agency reported at a press briefing, a far cry from the $1 billion initially projected.
A special report found that the mission, on which a generation of scientists are counting, has had serious managerial problems. The project, the report bluntly stated, "was simply not executable within the budgeted resources."
In order to keep building the Webb and launch it in 2015, the rest of NASA may have to warp to fit its needs. That means other projects won't be funded or will be scaled back. That's not ideal, but it might be the best choice that NASA's got.
Let's be clear about why the mission is important: the Webb is the next Hubble. It will extend human understanding in many of the ways that everyone's favorite space telescope did. We'll be able to see farther back in time, learn new things about the universe, and possibly resolve liquid water on a nearby habitable exoplanets. The Webb, as Lee Billings put it in his definitive piece on the telescope, is "the key to almost every big question that astronomers hope to answer in the coming decades."