The Webb team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is especially proud reflecting on their work for the mission, which spans more than two decades and primarily focused on development and testing of the mirrors in extreme cold temperatures at which Webb will operate.
While Webb is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, teams at Marshall worked closely with Goddard and others over the course of the telescope’s development.

The launch of NASA’s Webb telescope marked the next leap forward in space observation and exploration. Its discoveries could fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe. With a mirror surface area roughly six times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, it has the ability to see some of the earliest objects to form after the big bang. Webb’s science goals are to observe the universe’s light emitted by the first galaxies, and to study exoplanets a little closer to home with an unprecedented level of detail. But that’s just the end of the beginning.

Marshall’s involvement with Webb began in 1989, under the observatory’s previous name, the Next Generation Space Telescope. Marshall was responsible for the strawman design and the integrated modeling of the design.

Concurrently in 1989, Marshall upgraded the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility, the world’s largest X-ray telescope test facility. The facility’s unique capability and crew have been essential to the development and verification activities of many agency flagship missions, including the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

From 1996-2003, Marshall’s focus shifted to designing and developing technology that would be used in support of the mirrors on Webb. The Marshall team provided technical oversight of the Webb mirrors, and the X-ray and Cryogenic Facility was busy running cryo tests of the full-size latch system, the flight mirrors, actuator systems, and flight hardware.

Image Credit: NASA/David Higginbotham Larger image