For me the most exciting prospect of the JWST is the ability to analyse the spectra of atmospheres around exoplanets. We could have tantalising evidence of extrasolar life in just a few years.
Isn't the math tantalizing enough? Spoiler: there is.
All evidence points to the contrary. Once you have conditions that support life, given time and entropy, inevitably there is life. I don't think finding life out there is much of a going concern. But I think maybe whether there is Intelligent Life™ out there, is. Even if Earth is the first evolution of life in the Universe, it is too late, it's going to be everywhere it can be eventually, because waterbears can survive space (and God knows what else), and sometimes things hit Earth and knock off parts with waterbears, given enough times, one of those is then bound to hit another Goldilocks planet, and there you have it.
At the end of the day though, we just don't know how many factors were necessary for the formation of life on earth(or indeed whether it formed on Earth in the first place). There could be any series of unlikely characteristics about our solar system and the Earth that were all necessary for life. One example is the Earth's unusually large moon, likely caused by the Earth colliding with another planet during the formation of the solar system. Another is the seemingly unusual variety in types and sizes of planets within the solar system(see the Grand Tack Hypothesis), and the effect of Jupiter shielding the Earth from massive meteor bombardment. Sure, maybe it's highly unlikely that life exists only on Earth. But even so, the question of just how common it is is very interesting.
As for tardigrades, note that they've been shown to be able to survive 10 days in space. That's a far cry from being able to survive an interstellar journey, land on a planet, survive and multiply as the only species on said planet, etc. Extrapolating all this from surviving space for 10 days in an experiment is a pretty big leap.
And indeed, I've never heard a scientist dismiss the importance of discovering extrasolar life as "not much of a concern" I find this view utterly absurd.
I'd really like to know the story behind how they got a V2 rocket out to White Sands and actually conducted this flight. It has to be a fascinating story - one I hadn't even heard of until now. I assume this was broadly part of Operation Paperclip, and either fully assembled rockets or their components were moved out of Germany and to the United States at some point.
Edit: I take it back, the wiki does link the final project report from 1952 that goes into detail about how this was accomplished. It's worth reading.
The first Soviet ballistic missile "R1" was an almost 100% clone of the V2 for instance:
Really sucks, to put it mildly, because it kind of entwines space exploration with Nazis, attaching ethical questions to JWST and even to our beloved "One small step for..." audio clip. But maybe we can sift out whether the V2 would have been developed regardless of whether Nazis came to power in Germany. What if we had a time machine, and could very surgically stop the Nazis ever coming to power and prevent the Holocaust. Would it also cost us the V2 rocket and a lot of time getting to where we are now with space exploration? I know it is a dumb hypothetical, but I want to know Nazi tech is irrelevant.
>Eight of them are still in operation today, manufacturing structural parts for military and commercial aircraft. They still hold the records for size in North America, though they have since been surpassed by presses in Japan, France, Russia and China.
This was also the time when close (and secret) military relations with the Soviet Union started by the way (also to work around sanctions).
Other breakthrough technology was also developed in other countries (e.g. jet engines in England) but not taken serious enough (e.g. there wasn't a visionary individual ready to throw money at the problem like Heinkel in Germany).
And (fast forwarding a few years into the war) once the Nazis went into panic mode when it became clear that the Luftwaffe is mostly useless, they basically started to throw all sort of "shit" against the wall hoping that something would stick (and it actually did): ballistic missiles (V2), cruise missiles (V1), anti-aircraft missiles (Wasserfall and Schmetterling), guided bombs (Fritz-X), and of course jet engines, but there were countless more projects that didn't go anywhere. I've also read that Germany was actually massively behind in high precision manufacturing compared to the US and UK, which may also partly explain the focus on "non-conventional" technology.
So I guess it wasn't so much the Nazis directly, but the panic due to losing a war which caused the frantic exploration of all sorts of tech projects (but this war wouldn't have happened in the first place without the Nazis of course). Without such a crisis, the more conservative 'nay-sayers' might have supressed many more breakthrough ideas.
Where is “inner space” or “middle space”?
Exposure was an afterthought to astronauts and now they make more aesthetically pleasing images by using basic photography principles (and better digital sensors)
In history there have always been true flat earthers, but they've become rarer and rarer until the Youtube era in fact, when the concept of it became so widespread because it's "funny" and not at all representative of how many people truly believe in it. The whole thing is people laughing at someone that doesn't really exist.
There are people that got roped up in it who were not lunatics, some have since recanted a lot of what they said and mentioned how it happened. It mostly comes down to people “doing their own research” and feeling like theyre being proactive but really Google, Youtube and Facebook sent them down a rabbit hole of related content, which in this case was a “grand conspiracy few people know of”.