Since its founding in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—or more commonly known as NASA—has done incredible things to ensure that the United States remains a key player in the study and exploration of outer space. From high-tech rovers to sending people to the Moon, it’s sometimes hard to believe their technology could get more advanced.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happened thanks to a new invention that’s set to change everything we thought we knew. What it’s capable of is fascinating—and when you see what NASA is expecting it to do, you’ll be filled with some serious space-based excitement!
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has long been regarded as one of the most cutting-edge institutions in the world. To achieve that lofty status, however, it’s had to do some pretty remarkable things—and it might have just topped itself.
From launching the Space Shuttle Program to the first-ever moon landing, its track record speaks for itself. Yet, even long after the “space race” has ended, the folks who work there are still ready to introduce something groundbreaking.
It took several years and billions of dollars, but the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has finally been completed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland—and astronomers everywhere couldn’t be more excited…
Made up of 18 hexagonal mirrors, each plated with gold, the JWST has 100 times the observing power of the famous Hubble telescope, which was previously the most powerful telescope in the world.
“Upon completion, Webb will be the largest and most complex space observatory that anyone on planet Earth has ever built,” NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said in a statement. “It will capture the imagination and dreams of millions who dare to look to the sky and wonder.”
When it launches in October 2018, the JWST will be positioned well beyond the Moon’s orbit. Thus, it will have a completely unobstructed view while it floats in outer space. It’s not just the more powerful than all other telescopes, though…
It’s also different from the Hubble because it will use infrared technology to see everything from galaxies to exoplanets. The infrared views, combined with the power of the 18 gold-plated mirrors, allow it to see through cosmic dust. That’s right—cosmic dust.
However, the JWST has been plagued with delays (it was originally supposed to launch in 2011), and its $1 billion budget has ballooned to $8.7 billion over the course of its construction. Understandably, that means there’s a lot of pressure surrounding the launch…
NASA will need months of additional testing to ensure that JWST makes it past the Moon. Unlike Hubble, which has benefitted from numerous manned missions for repairs and upgrades, the Webb will be too far away to be able to be serviced.
Still, while it’s taken over 20 years, it won’t be long until we’ll start seeing images of the cosmos like we never would have been able to imagine before. Really, the possibilities are pretty insane…
To give you an idea of some of the things the JWST would be able to achieve, just take a look at some of the most mind-blowing facts astrophysicists have learned since space exploration started heating up…
To gain some perspective about our planet’s position in the solar system, consider that this is what it looks like from a zoomed-out aerial view. See how tiny our planet is in comparison to the others?
Thanks to space exploration, we know that this is the distance, to scale, between the Earth and the Moon. Can you believe we were able to send astronauts there almost 50 years ago? Just imagine what we could do nowadays!
If you were to stand on the Moon, this is exactly the way the Earth would appear. You would obviously have a crystal-clear view of the planet and its atmosphere. Still, this incredible view pales in comparison to the ones we’ll soon see thanks to the JWTS.
Without tools like the Hubble, there’s no way we would know there are thousands of different galaxies in the universe, or that each one contains millions of its own unique solar systems. Imagine what the Webb is going to show us?
Not to mention, there’s certainly not a chance we would’ve know that, 10 billion light years away from our planet, there is the amazing and enormous spiral galaxy known as UDF 423…
There’s a good chance we never would’ve learned about VY Canis Majoris—the largest known star in the universe—if it wasn’t for such innovative technology. Here, you can see how much larger it is than our own Sun.
As American astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Everyone and everything you have ever known exists on that little speck.” This is what Earth would look like from Neptune, by the way!
What’s also mind-blowing is that everything we’ve seen in space through our various forms of exploration only represents a small fraction of the universe in its entirety. There’s still so much unexplored territory to be discovered!
It’s easy to see why space exploration is so integral. Without it, we would just be floating through the cosmos, blissfully unaware of everything else that’s out there. Thankfully, the JWST could help us understand more about our universe, just like the Hubble did.
There’s no limit to what NASA can achieve. Luckily, we all get to sit back and watch them do it!
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