Technology has advanced and the time has come to put up a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.  NASA is well on the way to a next generation space telescope but to my horror, they've chosen to call it the James Webb Space Telescope!

"Who the hell is James Webb?" you might ask.  Well, he was a lawyer and a bureaucrat. He happened to be the top administrator of NASA through the glory years of Gemini and Apollo, but he was not a scientist.

Is anyone else offended by having a piece of advanced technology named after a bureaucrat?  I'm fine with putting his name on a government building, but I think the next generation space telescope should be named after a scientist - perhaps Carl Sagan.

Should we protest?

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Hubble has not just made several major scientific discoveries. It has also given us amazing photos of the Universe.Take a look. While it has advanced our scientific knowledge it has more than increased our desire for further discoveries. It has revealed so much more wonder and majesty for us that we are inspired to want to search of more. The very name “Hubble” has inspired a generation to get involved in cosmology and in turn study the works of Hubble himself. There may be scientists working today only because their passion took fire because they were inspired by the man himself as much as by the discoveries. I am sure the name “Sagan” would do the same. The Sagan Space Telescope is a better sounding name than the James Webb choice. While the JWST will make more amazing discoveries and show us other worlds like never before it will lose some of its majesty with such a banal and uninspiring name. More Redshift, less red tape.

There is a video here on the history of Hubble and what the "Sagan" may discover.

Call it The Flying Spaghetti Monster Space Decoder Ring if you want, just keep funding science instead of bomb making.

I believe space exploration defines us as a species and is one of the loftier aspirations we can undertake. I certainly agree the funding of science is preferred over the making of instruments of death. Unfortunately weapons technology is a science oriented industry. I am concerned with the U.S. inability to balance their budget, it in fact just continues to grow larger, and I am surprised that the younger generation (under 40) is not more vociferous about correcting the problem. Everything needs to be scaled back until we get our fiscal house in order. Otherwise we are burying ourselves under a mountain that will eventually turn into a landslide. I would certainly rather fund NASA than continue to give billions to countries like Egypt and Pakistan who vote against us 90% of the time in the U.N. The business of world politics and funding countries is a dirty one at best.

Absolutely! Edwin Hubble was the most influential name in astronomy in the 20th Century. Though he was heavily influenced by family members to practice law or teach (both of which he did briefly), his obsession with what's "out there" led him to Mt. Wilson and a permanent position there. Even so, he was the first astronomer to use the then new, telescope at Mt. Palomar. Hubble's name, like that of Galileo before him, is forever linked to the telescope and his discovery of the expansion of the Universe not only confirmed Einstein's theories, but forever changed the image of the Universe from one of a steady state, to a vibrant, evolving one that permitted a glimpse back in time to its very origin.

James Webb may well be the finest man who ever walked the planet, but he might as well be James Wood, for all his connection to space, when compared with Edwin Hubble. I would rather see it named after Neil Armstrong than James Webb, but naming it after Carl Sagan would be an excellent choice and a fitting memorial for all of his many contributions to the field.

I think Patrick Moore deserves a mention too but I think we should name a planet after him.

I can see that - his bio makes him sound like someone I would have enjoyed watching. Know if there are any videos out there? I can look for myself, but you usually have your finger on the pulse of such things.

This one is I hope viewable from the USA. It is the on the BBC website. He interviewed all the greats of the last century. Included here are interviews with Carl Sagan and Neil Armstrong.

Also a few good links and a brief history of his 55 year long TV show "The Sky at Night" are there too.

He was an accomplished piano player and once (pre WW2 I think) played alongside Einstein  who was a keen violin player (relativley speaking - ouch).

Admittedly on a complete tangent, and apropos of nothing really, Hubble was raised in a religious atmosphere, but once he was deeply invested in his career in astronomy, became an agnostic.

Webb was no scientist but consider his greatest achievement: securing resources for NASA. Look at the numbers below and note what happened to NASA's budget during his tenure.

The name choice is probably a political move to draw attention to NASA's dwindling budget. Public approval of NASA remains high. Even in the middle of a severe recession 60% of Americans wanted NASA's funding left alone or increased, which is extraordinary. Congressional approval ratings are at all-time lows, so a strong association with NASA's star power could be helpful to any politician worried about his or her job security.    

It's troubling that funding for scientific research is such a political matter. But it is. If it helps NASA get it off the ground they can call it the Coca-Cola telescope for all I care. 

Year and NASA budget as Percentage of Federal Budget

1958 0.10%
1959 0.20%
1960 0.50%
1961 0.90%
1962 1.18% (First budget passed after Webb lobbies for support)
1963 2.29%
1964 3.52%
1965 4.31%
1966 4.41%
1967 3.45%
1968 2.65%
1969 2.31% (Last Webb-era budget)
1970 1.92%
1971 1.61%
1972 1.48%
1973 1.35%
1974 1.21%
1975 0.98%
1976 0.99%
1977 0.98%
1978 0.91%
1979 0.87%
1980 0.84%
1981 0.82%
1982 0.83%
1983 0.85%
1984 0.83%
1985 0.77%
1986 0.75%
1987 0.76%
1988 0.85%
1989 0.96%
1990 0.99%
1991 1.05%
1992 1.01%
1993 1.01%
1994 0.94%
1995 0.88%
1996 0.89%
1997 0.90%
1998 0.86%
1999 0.80%
2000 0.75%
2001 0.76%
2002 0.72%
2003 0.68%
2004 0.66%
2005 0.63%
2006 0.57%
2007 0.58%
2008 0.60%
2009 0.57%
2010 0.52%
2011 0.53%
2012 0.48%
2013 0.52% (projected)
2014 0.52% (projected)
2015 0.52% (projected)

GM, thanx for providing the information that helps us to a decision.

If we can name a Navy aircraft carrier for Ronald Reagan, who started the Republican borrowing frenzy that has brought us to near bankruptcy, we can easily name a space telescope for a NASA administrator who so successfully got money for his agency.

Webb contributed a pittance to the debt we are passing to our kids. Our keeping military bases in most of the world's nations is contributing far more. Churchill once said the sun doesn't set on the British Empire. We can truthfully say the sun doesn't set on the American military. How many of us are protesting this?

I always liked the sound of the name Hubble - I grew up with just knowing it was out there, the Hubble bubble in Space.  I really do understand your point about attributing the name of someone to such a magnificent invention, but in the end, the invention itself ends up owning the name.  I could wiki James Webb, but my thoughts don't really rely on who he is or was. 

I'm thinking we have the World Wide Web that lets us, via computer, connect across the world.  So a Universal Web is quite a correlative name.  One B or two, doesn't really matter, because although scientists will write the word, non-scientists, lay people like me will use the word more verbally. 

Let them have Webb - I predict the second B will end up atrophying and the Galactic or Universal Web will lose its significance in terms of naming, but gain it via its expanding of our understanding of what is actually out there.

(on a side note, it occurs to me that much of the Far East has problems pronouncing the letter W - as do the French.  Oh well...)

Here is a good site for Hubble photos. At the top of the page there is 25mb zip file with 100 of Hubbles best photos. I downloaded and opened it so it is virus free.  Would make for good screen savers or xmas cards even.

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