Written by Bryce Getchell | @Porkfryedbryce
In 1996, NASA scientists began to assemble the James Webb Space Telescope, a next-generation telescope meant to surpass the famous Hubble Space Telescope. Now, twenty years later and twice the size of the Hubble telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope is finally complete.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) paves the way for the future of space exploration. This powerful telescope has a mirror that is 21-feet in length and is now the largest telescope in existence. The JWST will provide us with the opportunity to see the birth of galaxies, search for life on faraway planets, and give us a better understanding of the origins and functions of the Universe.
NASA reports that they have scheduled the JWST to launch in October of 2018, but before they can begin preparing for this launch, they will need to put the telescope through a series of extensive tests.
To simulate the rough conditions the JWST will encounter during its launch, scientists will shake the Space Telescope and expose it to sound waves of up to 150 decibels. Next they will test its ability to withstand the extreme cold of space through cryogenic testing. After that, the JWST will be installed onto the spacecraft bus to run several tests, including in-flight communication and its computer systems. If it passes the previous tests, scientists will install it with a solar shield roughly the size of a tennis court. This will protect its hardware and delicate instruments when far out in space. Once equipped with its shield, the JWST will undergo further testing before its scheduled launch.
It is crucial that every aspect, every measurement and condition, is correctly set and that the JWST passes these tests before being launched into space. Everything must go according to plan because, unlike the Hubble telescope which can easily be worked on if a problem arises, the JWST will be about 930,000 miles out of reach, making maintenance nearly impossible.
When the James Webb Space Telescope is in position, it will provide scientists with the ability to see aspects of this universe that have never been discovered before. Eighteen large hexagonal mirrors will collect and read infrared light that is produced by all objects up in space. This will allow us to learn more about distant stars and even planets that have yet to be discovered.
For more information about the James Webb Space Telescope, check out NASA’s JWST page, check out our interview with the Director of NASA Astrophysics Dr. Paul Hertz as we talk about the future of NASA telescopes, and be sure to stay tuned as Upportunityu brings you all of the latest in space exploration.