Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ultimate Space Telescope

Cue the Boston "It's been such a long time". But we have arrived at the moment when the James Webb Space Telescope has enough air underneath it to merit an episode of NOVA that includes images.

Delay after delay and budget overruns aplenty made us wonder if this beast was ever going to launch. And when it finally did launch, the reality of its 300+ single points of potential mission failure made us wonder if we were ever going to see images.

Spoiler alert: JWST had a successful launch and deployment. And those images!

So here we are: Chapter 1 is complete and the story can be told about what is now the ultimate space telescope. You and I may know the back story and drama, but our students do not. This hour-long introduction brings them up to speed with the details of this ambitious research tool. If Hubble is an indicator, JWST may become the most productive research instrument we have ever built.

Those chapters have yet to be written. This chapter is about how we got here.

How did NASA engineers build and launch the most ambitious telescope of all time? Follow the dramatic story of the James Webb Space Telescope—the most complex machine ever launched into space. If it works, scientists believe that this new eye on the universe will peer deeper back in time and space than ever before to the birth of galaxies, and may even be able to “sniff” the atmospheres of exoplanets as we search for signs of life beyond Earth. But getting it to work is no easy task. The telescope is far bigger than its predecessor, the famous Hubble Space Telescope, and it needs to make its observations a million miles away from Earth—so there will be no chance to go out and fix it. That means there’s no room for error; the most ambitious telescope ever built needs to work perfectly. Meet the engineers making it happen and join them on their high stakes journey to uncover new secrets of the universe.

Participants include Charles Bolden Jr., Caitlin Casey, Christine Chen, Knicole Colón, Néstor Espinoza, Lee Feinberg, Macarena Garcia Marin, Gina Green-Harris, Louis Gregory-Strolger, Kenneth Harris II, Jessica Hart, Jeyhan Kartaltepe, Charles-Philippe LaJoie, Matthew Lallo, Nora Lützgendorf, John Mather, Mike Menzel, Stefanie Milam, Matt Mountain, Antonella Nota, Marcia Rieke, Jane Rigby, Gregory Robinson, Alphonso Stewart, Amber Straughn, Begoña Vila, Thomas Zurbuchen.

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