Status Report

NGST Weekly Missive 29 Nov 2002

By SpaceRef Editor
November 29, 2002
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Hi Folks,

This coming week John and I will be presenting the status of the program to the Origins Subcommittee here in the Washington area.  Because of the recently concluded procurement blackout, we have not addressed this group in over a year. We are also about to begin negotiations with the Institute for their new science and operations contract.  It is anticipated that we will sign the contract by the end of the AAS meeting in early January.  Speaking of AAS, we have begun preparing for the upcoming winter meeting in Seattle.  The Institute is busy updating our displays and various handouts in recognition of the fact that we have a new prime contractor and a new name.  If you plan on attending, be sure to stop by the JWST exhibit and pick up a commemorative pin and description of the status of the mirror technology program. 

Now for some rather big news:  I have been on the project for almost 8 years now and, as with most good things, so the saying goes, this must come to an end. And so I will soon conclude my stint as the first project manager of the James Webb Space Telescope (the observatory formerly known as NGST).  The transition to Phase B seems like an obvious break point, and so after a most enjoyable stay, it is with a certain amount of pride of ownership that I turn over the reins for this exciting mission to someone else as it transitions to the next phase of development. That someone is Mr. Phil Sablehaus, previously the project manager for NASA’s Aura Earth science satellite, and one of Goddard’s top project managers.  He will not take over, however, until the end of January, as he has some important residual commitments on another program.   At that point I will transition to my new posting and wish the JWST team well on the rest of the journey.

This transition point is bittersweet for me, in the sense that the JWST architecture is the culmination of my vision of the first really large space telescope,  one whose primary mirror diameter is substantially larger than conventional rocket fairing diameters.  It’s been over 15 years since I (and a few colleagues) first began to think in terms of such a large observatory. Seeing JWST actually become a full fledged flight program in the Office of Space Science has been an immense source of pride and accomplishment. I will always remember this as a time when I got to help shape the Agency’s new flagship, a time when I had the privilege of working with some of NASA’s finest.  So I will pass the baton to the new manager to implement my vision, while I in turn continue to broaden my NASA career by taking on a challenging new assignment,  this time on the engineering management side of the organization, however.  I have been selected by Goddard senior management as the Mission Engineering and Systems Analysis Division Chief,  Code 590.  My new responsibilities will include nurturing a mission systems engineering focus within the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate (so we can make more little JWSTs!) and supervising over 200 civil servants working in the areas of systems engineering and guidance, navigation and control. Between now and the end of January, I will continue to manage JWST,  help with Phil’s transition,  and conduct various pre-Confirmation Review activities, including a project re-baselining and chairing of two pre-development reviews for detectors and MEMS.

My biggest regret will be leaving behind a team that I worked so hard to establish over the last few years, and who have worked so tirelessly for me on the program.  I’m particularly thankful that so many talented folks from the other NASA centers, STScI and JPL saw fit to work for me through both the good and bad times during the concept development phase, where often the mission concept seemed to hang in the balance, awaiting some breakthrough or advance in the state of the art — and yet it always came, thanks to the government and industry team’s  dedication and creativity.  I also wish to express my appreciation to my international colleagues, both professionally and as new friends, along with their Agency’s mission-enabling contributions to the observatory. We have all come a long way in a relatively short interval of time, and this international mission has been a continual source of satisfaction to me, as it should be to all involved.

In closing, I owe a debt of gratitude to my management, particularly Al Diaz, Orlando Figueroa, John Mather and John Campbell,  for affording me the opportunity to work the formative phase of development of this exciting observational tool – and especially to Dr. Ed Weiler for believing in me and in my leadership during this period.  I also want to thank all those who subscribe to this missive, and particularly those of you who occasionally emailed me back,  urging me on with whatever particular challenge we happened to be facing.  I derived a sense of confidence and encouragement from your words.  Thanks for your continuing interest in NASA’s  JWST program.



Bernard D. Seery

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

James Webb Space Telescope Project Manager

SpaceRef staff editor.