The James Webb Telescope is the planned successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in operation for more than 29 years.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the globe, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Fox News the space agency will "continue to assess the potential impact on our missions as the situation unfolds". The construction of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is among the most important tasks, was interrupted. As it turned out, that discussion took second place on the agenda. Zurbuchen started his speech as follows: "What we're going to do now is to apply what I call the elephant principle: If there is an elephant in a room, we'll talk about it".
The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surged above 33,000, with a total of 417 deaths. "The improvements required for a mission to be considered successful can also be done remotely, but cannot be built remotely", he said in his speech.
The American space agency had been working on the very large Space Launch System and Orion capsule for taking humans to the satellite, but now the entire project has temporarily been stopped, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. He noted that aircraft-based science flights have already been postponed indefinitely, although he emphasized that those flights are not canceled and will be rescheduled when the pandemic is more contained.
That spacecraft is now scheduled to launch next March, although a January report from the Government Accountability Office suggested that the project had just a 12% chance of meeting that timeline, even without the pandemic.
"We realize there will be impacts to NASA missions, but as our teams work to analyze the full picture and reduce risks we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce", Bridenstine said.
On March 14, the European Space Agency, in conjunction with Russian space agency Roscosmos, announced that its next mission to Mars will be delayed until 2022 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. The main shuttle is now in Florida, however prelaunch get together isn't yet finished and the wanderer's capacity supply has not yet shown up.
Separately, NASA issued a statement on its website on March 20 that its Perseverance rover is a "high priority" for the agency, noting the mission will continue as is. The two missions are needed yet they're totally different to the extent their circumstance and choices that should be made.
In an interview with CNN, he said: "It feels like we are on our own".
During his comments, he likewise endeavored to underline that NASA's emphasis was on addressing the requirements of its staff's physical and mental prosperity. Zurbuchen acknowledged that some NASA staff will be dealing with other complications, like taking care of children home from school or getting back to family they have been working away from, and that the situation is continuing to change.
The unspoken question underlying his remarks, of course, was what that future might look like. "Most of the missions, there's nobody working hands-on anymore at NASA facilities".