2014: JWST Delays
- "2014", this comic's number, redirects here. For the comic named "2014", see 1311: 2014.
Title text: Since delays should get less likely closer to the launch, most astronomers in 2018 believed the expansion of the schedule was slowing, but by early 2020 new measurements indicated that it was actually accelerating.
The telescope has been in development since 1996, but has been plagued by numerous delays and cost overruns. This comic was likely inspired by the most recent delay announcement, which was posted on June 27, 2018. At that time, the JWST was scheduled to launch on March 30, 2021.
- In July 2020, this was pushed back further to October 31, 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- In June 2021, it was announced that the launch day is likely slip to at least mid-November 2021.
- On September 8, 2021, ESA announced that the official planned launch date is December 18, 2021.
- On November 22, 2021, NASA announced that the official planned launch date was delayed by four days to December 22, 2021, following a problem encountered when mating JWST to its payload adapter.
- On December 15, 2021, NASA announced that the official planned launch date was delayed by two days to December 24, 2021, following a communications issue between JWST and the launch vehicle
- On December 21, 2021, NASA announced that the official planned launch date was delayed by one day to December 25, 2021 due to adverse weather at the launch site
- On December 25, 2021, the telescope has been successfully launched.
This comic portrays the launch delays and the new predicted launch years and the times at which those predictions were made. There have been so many delays in this project that you can plot a line of best fit with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy. Randall says optimistically that the line’s slope is less than one (there is less than one year of new delay per year of elapsed time), implying, of course, that if events continue without further intervention, it will eventually be built, with a predicted date of late 2026.
The title text alludes to the famous research over the universe’s accelerating expansion. The expansion had been predicted to be slowing due to gravity from everything in the universe; instead, it was found to be accelerating since about 5 billion years ago. Here, Randall looks at the apparently ever-delaying schedule and observes that the delay per time does not decrease, although the date gets nearer (which should help to schedule the launch date, as research and unknown parameters are replaced with engineering and exact predictions and measurements). However, this delay inflation contradicts Randall's usage of a linear trendline. Given the COVID-19 pandemic brought some additional delays in 2020 and 2021, the "early 2020" date was perhaps unintentionally prescient.
The Wikipedia article linked above includes a table which provides the data points for the chart:
| Time left|
|1999||2007 to 2008||8-9|
|2010||2015 to 2016||5-6|
- [Top caption, in the panel:]
- James Webb Space Telescope
- [Subtitle of top caption:]
- Launch Delays
- [There is a positive-quadrant only line graph. The x- axis is labeled 'Current Date' and the y axis is labeled 'Planned Launch Date'. The dates on both of the axes range from 1995 to 2030.]
- [In the graph are 15 points, starting at (1997,2007) and extending at a slope of a little less than one. The most recent one is labeled 'Now: 2021'.]
- [There are two lines on the graph: a red one and a dashed black one. The red one is a regression of the points on the graph. It has a slope of about ⅔. The black one is a line with a slope of one. They intersect at the point (2026,2026), marked by the label 'Late 2026'?]
- [Caption below the panel:]
- Look, at least the slope is less than one.
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