Three decades of space exploration as NASA built the telescope

An artist's impression of the James Webb telescope

Picture: NASA GSFC / CIL / Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

In less than three weeks, NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency will finally send the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit. And it’s been a long time.

The new observatory was created to succeed the aging Hubble Space Telescope and become the largest and most powerful space science telescope ever built by NASA.

The machine has a 21-foot mirror consisting of 18 golden plates. This primary mirror reflects the infrared rays into a small mirror, which then directs them into a group of four sensors. These include infrared cameras, near-infrared spectrographs, and other infrared-sensitive instruments.

All of this helps the James Webb telescope observe parts of space that have never been seen before. It can observe infrared light, which can contain clues to the beginning of the universe, and can help locate habitable planets in our galaxy. If all goes according to plan.

This impressive creation is due to go into space December 22. Once in orbit more than a million miles from Earth, it goes through six months of deployment before it can really Go to work.

This means that by the time it starts capturing its first images of the cosmos, it has been more than 30 years since the start of its design process. And it’s been a long time.

During this time, the planet has traveled more than 19,272,000,000 miles and the population of our planet has grown by 2 billion to more than 7 billion people.

But what about the world of space travel, what breakthroughs have we seen in 33 years of space exploration?

1989, Back to where it all started

The space shuttle Atlantis orbits the earth

Picture: NASA / Moniste (Getty Images)

In 1989, the year before NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope in the United States the space agency had already considered its successor. That year, the Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA co-hosted a workshop to begin deciding what features the new space telescope will need.

But that wasn’t all NASA was working on in the late ’80s. Following the Challenger explosion in 1986, the Space Agency returned to operate regular space shuttle flights.

1989 was also the year the first spacecraft flew past Neptune, Voyager 2. In it, the Soviet Union also expanded its Mir space station by adding a third module to the floating observatory.

Funny fact, 1989 was also the year Lexus and Infiniti were unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

1996, Design takes shape

The 21-foot mirror of the James Webb telescope

Picture: NASA / Chris Gunn

By the mid-1990s, the design and development of NASA’s next-generation space telescope was well under way. In 1996, the committee concluded that the satellite should be equipped with everything needed to monitor infrared light and called for a mirror more than four meters in diameter to be fitted to the boat – exactly what the James Webb telescope is today. is.

Work was also underway at that time to launch the International Space Station. In fact, the first parts of the station were launched into orbit on November 20, 1998 with a Russian proton rocket.

Other mid-90s milestones included the first french woman in space, Claudie Haigneré, and the launch of the longest space shuttle ever, which took 17 days, 15 hours, and 53 minutes.

It was also the year the Nintendo 64 was released.

2002, What’s in the name?

Astronauts serve the Hubble Space Telescope

Picture: NASA / Moniste (Getty Images)

In 2002, NASA decided to rename the next-generation space telescope the James Webb Space Telescope, according to a former NASA administrator.

That year, the Agency also launched five space shuttle missions, including one for servicing the aging Hubble Space Telescope, which NASA initially thought would be operational only until 2005.

Also in 2002 Spider-Man was the most produced film in the U.S. box office, and we didn’t all blissfully know that we would soon be full of superhero movies.

2004, construction begins

Engineers begin construction of the James Webb Telescope

Picture: NASA / Desiree Stover

Two years later, NASA began construction of the James Webb Telescope, including 18 pieces that would form its golden primary mirror.

This year was also a turning point in the space competition, as space tourism was opened for the first time to private individuals. In 2004, SpaceShipOne was the first privately funded manned spacecraft to achieve suborbital flight.

2004 was also the year Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, originally exclusively for college students.

2010, Reviews have arrived

The space station orbits the earth with the shuttle docked

Picture: Moniste / Moniste (Getty Images)

More than 20 years after starting working on the telescope, Webb passed a design review to show that it met all of its science and technology needs.

That year was also marked the 10th anniversary of the space station, and it was also the first and only time so far that four women were in space at the same time: Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, and Japanese Naoko Yamazaki.

The following year also saw the last flight of the space shuttle.

2018, Together at last

The engineer stands in front of the six mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope

Picture: NASA / MSFC / David Higginbotham

For the first time, all the elements of the James Webb telescope came together under the same roof. All parts were assembled in California after the final tests of the telescope elements.

With the space shuttle now retired, the innovations in space flight were at this point transferred to the private sector. SpaceX successfully completed the first flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket. It was also the year Blue Origin originally hoped to send its first passengers into space. Testing was also underway on Virgin Galactic’s vessel, VSS Unity.

Back in the Terra company, 2018 was also the year that Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive.

2021, Ready for release

Four people walk towards the Blue Origin spacecraft

Picture: Joe Raedle / Staff (Getty Images)

The The James Webb telescope has now been sent to Kourou, In French Guiana before launching into orbit December 22.

This has also been a great year for the first in space, as NASA made its first motor flight on another planet when its Ingenuity helicopter flew on the Mars.

In the country of the super-rich, Blue origin with performed the first occupied space founder Jeff Bezos on, Richard Branson became the first billionaire to travel near space, and Elon Musk continued to fly the astronauts into orbit with hands controlled by SpaceX.

Apparently this means there is room for everyone now, I guess?