What I find offensive is the implied lack of respect for science in an 'artistic' context. The writers don't care to engage those with a modicum of scientific literacy. While it takes some effort for them to become educated in scientific principles, it seems like a tiny investment compared to endless millions invested in SFX, marketing and the rest of the blah blah.
Conversely, I also respect science more that expresses itself with an aesthetic sensibility as well.
On the other hand I sympathize with the parent. It's hard to write anything comprehensible in under a minute!
I had to reply to this thread, seeing only 9 hidden comments so far. That's a bit sad, since the JWST will be one of the most important science events since the Hubble. It will be an infrared telescope like the Spitzer, but it will effectively be an optical telescope for the distant universe because of red shift! And it will be able to peer into the distant past unlike any telescope prior.
In the sense of being a "space race" this is one area where the US really shines. There's no other nation that really is in the running, although there are lots of international contributions (yay Canada!). Maybe it's because of the language barrier, but I can't think of a single Russian space telescope. I can name a half dozen US scopes and one or two from the ESA. (Be sure to look up the Chandra, Fermi, Spitzer, XMM-Newton)
But then it's not really a space race, it's about science, so maybe it's a little boring for the general public. I only hope Slashdotter's are more aware that this is one of the great scientific adventures of our time.
That's debatable, but to the extent it is true we should be sending unmanned probes to the asteroids, not expensive manned missions. Besides, manned missions really don't have much to do with science.
The moon is much more like Mars than any little near Earth asteroid. Before we go to Mars we'll need to learn how to live there for several months, and constructing a base on the moon is a great way to gain that knowledge. It's far enough away and a similar enough environment to require similar engineering solutions, but near enough to rescue the mission if something goes awry. Also, landing on and lifting off the Moon is just what we want to be good at for a manned Mars mission. The moon's gravity is about 1/6 earth, Mar's is about 1/4. The main difference is Mar's atmosphere, but we won't learn anything about landing on an atmosphered planet from an asteroid mission.
Personally I think going to Mars is going to be a hell of a tough prospect, much harder than most people think. I can imagine a future where the first successful two-year mission barely survives the ordeal and the bleakness and suffering of the explorers turns everyone off the whole idea. Probably what we need is a faster, better, cheaper propulsion system to get us there in a month or less.
Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb