After 18 years, the famous Hubble Telescope is retiring. Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has provided mankind with some unbelievable images, discoveries, and breathtaking glimpses into our vast universe. If everything goes according to plan, Hubble will be replaced by the James Webb Telescope in October of 2018.
On Monday, NASA administrator Charles Bolden unveiled the finished $8.8 Billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Its 21-foot gold-coated mirror is able to collect 7x more light than the Hubble telescope can. With this incredible viewing ability, the telescope has the ability and power to hunt for other habitable planets! (This smooth, golden mirror has enough power to detect a bumblebee-sized object on the moon!)
In order to detect infrared light, the JWST must first be cooled down to -220 degrees Celsius. To do this the telescope must be insulated from the heat of the sun, which is done by 5 membranes layers, each of which is thinner than a human hair. These membranes were the final component to the assembly and were just completed last week, and now the telescope is ready for testing!
The James Webb telescope will undergo rigorous tests to avoid any troubles the Hubble telescope had, seeing as problems would be near impossible to fix from about a million miles away. Tests will include looking for physical damage from simulated noise and movement from a rocket launch, cryogenic labs to simulate space-like temperatures, and optical tests to avoid and photography issues experienced with the Hubble.
The entire James Webb mission is projected to launch in October of 2018. From there, we should be seeing the first photos taken by the JWST just 30 days after the 2018 launch!