At a time when major scientific breakthroughs are happening every day, NASA is hard at work for the final tests leading up to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.
The Webb’s mission is to peer back to the earliest days of the Universe and provide scientists with new, never before seen insight into the Universe’s history.
The Journey to the Webb
The Webb has had quite the journey to get to this point. It all started with the approval of its first budget in 1997. In 2011 it began its initial construction and design and after a series of rigorous tests in 2018, it was finally judged worthy to be loaded into the payload adapter. Then came the day when the Webb was loaded into the payload adapter, ready to begin its journey. Finally, in December 2019, the Webb was ready to leave Earth.
Nasa Webb: A Revolutionary Telescope
The Webb is set to revolutionize space exploration as we know it. It will be the largest telescope ever sent into space, over three times larger than its predecessor, the Hubble. It is an infrared telescope with a 6.5 meter gold coated mirror collecting light from the very early Universe. This means that the Webb is capable of looking back in time 13.5 billion years. Additionally, rather than having a fixed position, the Webb will have a gravotaional and sun shield to position it accurately during its mission. The Webb is powerful enough to give us a look at comets, exoplanets, and entire star systems.
The Webb’s Scientific and Astronomical Contributions
The Webb is capable of making many groundbreaking observations to further our scientific knowledge.
• It is capable of detecting light from stars and galaxies that formed only 500 million years after the Big Bang.
• It will definitively answer whether oxygen and other elements necessary for life were present from the start of the Universe.
• The Webb is the perfect tool to search for protoplanetary disks and study the formation of planetary systems.
• It also has the potential to show what elements planets are made of and whether there are water and other molecules present on planets in a star system.
• Astronomers are hoping the Webb will hurl new light onto the mystery of dark energy and dark matter.
Final Tests and Challenges
Now that the Webb is fully assembled, it has to undergo the tedious and challenging final tests before beginning its space mission. There are no delays allowed here as the Webb has to leave in 2021, so the pressure is on.
• Vibration tests: To ensure no damage is done to the Webb during its flight, it must go through high-grade vibrations tests to ensure it can handle the vibrations in the transport vehicle during launch.
• Thermal Balance tests: These tests check that the Webb will be able to withstand temperatures from -200 to +300 degrees Celsius and that it has efficient heat dissipation mechanisms in place.
• Leak Tests: The Webb is tested for miniscule leaks that may cause undesirable effects in space.
• Finally, these tests make sure the Webb is able to adjust itself accurately to its environment no matter what position the Webb is in.
The Webb is almost ready to join the other spacecrafts in space, revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, and make groundbreaking scientific observations. Even with the testing challenges that must be overcome, the anticipation of seeing the Webb at its full potential gives us all something to look forward to.