Ever since it was first founded in 1958, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has explored the galaxy in ways never thought possible. They launched countless satellites, sent a man to the moon, and will soon even put a man on Mars. But their latest development could allow them to journey even farther into space than anyone ever has.
Their latest feat is the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, and it was developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. It took years and cost a heck of a lot of money (let’s just say it’s in the billions), but now that it’s nearly done, it just may be the tool that allows us to reach previously unseen corners of the galaxy.
Here’s what makes the JWST so special: it is comprised of 18 large, hexagonal mirrors that are all plated with gold. This will allow it to have an observing power 100 times greater than the Hubble telescope. And in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years, the Hubble telescope is the most powerful telescope in the world.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while longer before we can truly experience the telescope’s power. It’s due to launch in October of 2018. The plan is to send it out beyond the moon’s orbit, so it will have a clear view in every direction it faces. But there’s something else about this telescope that makes it groundbreaking.
Unlike the soon-to-be-obsolete Hubble, the JWST will have infrared capabilities, that will allow it to better capture exoplanets, full galaxies, and everything in between. Also, the infrared technology, along with the extra strengthening power of the gold-plated mirrors, will allow it to see right through clouds of cosmic dust. Something that has been a problem with Hubble images for years.
It hasn’t always been excitement with the JWST though. It’s been a rocky process, with numerous delays. In fact, it’s original launch date was in 2011. That’s a 7-year delay! Not to mention the budget. At the moment it has cost NASA roughly $8.7 billion. It’s original budget. $1 billion. Yikes. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of pressure on this groundbreaking telescope.
And the problems might not stop there. The JWST will be able to go so far past the moon, that it will be out of range for any manned repair missions. Something the Hubble has enjoyed on multiple occasions. So if it gets hit by a meteor or has any malfunctions what so ever, NASA will be unable to send anyone or anything out to it to fix it.
But regardless of the roadblocks the people of NASA have or will run into, we’re all behind them in their efforts. And we can’t wait to see what amazing new things we learn about the vastness of space thanks to this incredible feat!