NASA’s massively powerful James Webb Space Telescope will one day bring us infrared images of the births of distant galaxies, while orbiting beyond the Earth’s moon at a temperature near absolute zero. But that’s still 8.7 billion dollars and several years away. While we wait, a full-scale replica will be constructed and installed this month in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, as a free attraction for a national science center conference.

The contractor Northrop Grumman is tasked with erecting a totally non-functioning, but outwardly identical version of a landmark four-story telescope that won’t be completed for years. Isn’t that weird? Let’s say you were beginning construction on a house, and other people in your neighborhood were so psyched about it that they hired their own construction team to build a completely non-operational 1:1 scale model of it. Wouldn’t you feel strange?

And, I hate to bring this up, but what if the original is never finished? How weird will our model be then?