If you only paid attention to the space race then you’d figure NASA to be one of the busiest government faculties on the planet. NASA has been int he news lately for their continued stress-testing of the James Webb Space Telescope in order to help prepare the machine for its big launch, currently scheduled for some point in the middle of 2019. The latest test gained some notoriety in the news thanks to just how odd it was to outsiders. NASA recently completed a three-month sealed vacuum chamber test to see how the telescope would fair. The results were inspiring and perhaps a little surprising.
The James Webb Telescope is commonly thought of as the next chain in the fence that leads back to the Hubble Space Telescope. The difference between these two cosmic entities is simple, the James Webb Telescope has mirrors that are more than six times as large as the Hubble. In order for Astronomers to properly create the telescope mirrors, they had to craft it out of 18 different parts which will then unfold once the James Webb hits its final destination in space.
NASA put the telescope into a 90-day stress test inside of a cryogenic vacuum chamber. This test was important because it showcased just how ready the telescope would be for an actual space mission. The alignment function was one of the most important moments in the testing and it occurred inside of what is known as Chamber A, which is located in the Johnson Space Center of Houston, TX.
For those not in the know, these cryogenic stress tests were a matter of vast importance. In fact, the telescope was in very real danger during the procedures. In certain temperatures and conditions, the material can actually end up being vaporized while under such low pressure. Even cleaning out the chamber can be a dramatic and time-consuming task. For the telescope to operate at peak conditions it had to endure temperatures sitting at negative 387 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the telescope is deployed into outer space it will have a shield that will be designed to protect it from the sun.
These cryo-tests ended up pulling in massive amounts of NASA team members in order to ensure that they functioned properly. With so many eyes now on the sky, it is positive to see that NASA is taking nothing for granted in their pursuit for knowledge and the extension of a race to outer space.