This Friday, 19 March 2009, I read an interview given by John Mather. On the surface it seems like a run-of-the-mill item. But if you consider the circumstances and read between the lines, you might see additional, broad significances. I am in fact wondering if this is not Mather’s swan song.

John Mather has been the lead scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Project from the beginning. He contacted a blog site called Universe Today, seemingly run from Canada, and said he wanted to give an update on the JWST. This is what Universe Today said about this contact:

We were understandably honored when Dr. Mather contacted Universe Today, saying he’d like to talk with us about the status of JWST. “I figured it might be time to talk about what we’re doing,” he said, “because exciting things are starting to happen.”

Mather goes on to give a tour de force on his role in the JWST. He does not talk much about the COBE satellite (for which he is famous), but makes a lot of comparison between JWST and the Hubble Telescope. He is reassuring people that NASA’s past bunglings will not be repeated with the JWST. He takes this opportunity to thank former NASA administrator Michael Griffin.

You can read the blog site for yourself here.

Now here are some questions:

– The JWST is a huge international project. According to Mather himself, we are now in a most important juncture with it, and people should hear about it now. Very fine! But why then reach out to some blog site and ask to give an interview? How many people would read this?

– The message that NASA is consciously trying very hard not to repeat past bunglings is of interest to the whole World. So, given that NASA has the World’s biggest megaphone and a most active PR department, why tell this story to this blog site?

The question in my mind is: Has John Mather been removed from the JWST project? Or, to use the proper euphemism, has he “resigned” from JWST?

Has John Mather in fact come to the end of the line?



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