We have a guest blogger today! Laura Betz, a writer for the James Webb Space Telescope, wrote this article for us about the student-built 1/6 scale engineering model of JWST that was recently demoed at NASA Goddard.
There are some moments of my life that I will never forget. Watching a car-sized model of one of the most advanced projects NASA is working on – the James Webb Space Telescope – unfolding at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. on Aug. 21, 2013 is one of them. Built like a Transformer and controlled robotically by engineering students from California Polytechnic University in Pomona, the model illustrates how Webb will be deployed one million miles out in space.
Credit: Maggie Masetti
Looking like a giant honeycomb sitting on top of futuristic silver-colored sails, once at its destination, Webb, the largest telescope ever built, will see back in time. Because of the way that light travels, this infrared telescope will be capable of capturing images of the universe from 13.4 billion years in light travel time. Experiencing the model deployment firsthand I was floored by the enormity of it all.
“Webb is the next satellite that will see back to the very early universe, to see the first galaxies that were born after the Big Bang,” said model project member Paul Innes. “Nothing like this has ever been done before.”
To demonstrate the sheer size and complexity of this mission, for the past two and a half years these students have been working with their mentors to build the first physical representation of the Webb deployment. The team thought creatively about how, in twenty minutes, they could represent the different stages of deployment to the general public.
A packed room of audience members at NASA Goddard watched the solar array unfold behind the telescope, the sunshield open up and the 18-segmented mirrors move together to form one complete mirror. To make this happen the student engineers even used parts of car antennas, the inside of a flashlight and garden materials to create the model.