Two years until the James Webb Telescope is launched
The Hubble telescope revolutionised the way in which we saw our place in the universe. The telescope and its 2.4 metre wide mirror were sent up into space to peer into the dark places of existence and found them to be filled with light and wonder.
Where we once saw nothing, Hubble revealed millions of galaxies, forcing us to reconsider the size of reality and how small our proud civilisation really is.
More than 25 years on from the initial launch it is clear that Hubble is approaching the end of its lifespan and needs to be retired. Luckily, a lot of very smart people have been working to make sure we do not lose our sight again and have recently finished assembling the telescope which will replace Hubble – the James Webb Telescope.
The James Webb is scheduled to launch in 2018 and will help us see things which have previously been out of our reach. The 6.5 metre wide beryllium and gold mirror will show us light from the very first stars formed more than 10 billion years ago. The James Webb will also be able to make out the chemical composition of distant planets, aiding us in our search for habitable planets far from our own sun and perhaps even extra-terrestrial life.
The next two years will be spent constructing the spacecraft chassis which will carry the telescope into orbit, as well as sorting out all the operational computing hardware which will make it all work. The telescope will also have to go through extensive heat and noise stress testing as well as being violently shaken to simulate the rigours of leaving the Earth’s orbit.
Once all the tests have been completed the James Webb Telescope will begin its lonely vigil looking out into the great expanse of space.