Photo credit: Chris Gunn/NASA
By Geoff Brumfiel
This week, NASA is set to reach a milestone on one of its most ambitious projects. If all goes to plan, workers will finish assembling the huge mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope — an $8 billion successor to the famous Hubble telescope.
“So far, everything — knock on wood — is going quite well,” says Bill Ochs, the telescope’s project manager at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
The massive mirror is being built in a facility that’s essentially a giant, ultra-clean gymnasium. NPR can’t go inside for risk of contamination, but I meet crew chief Dave Sime at an observation deck where we can see the mirror below. Sime works for the contractor Harris Corp., and he’s normally in there assembling it. When he is, he has to wear a white suit that covers every inch of his body.
“The only thing exposed is your eyes,” he says. (Spacecraft assembly pro tip, he adds: To use your cellphone in the clean area, try a Bluetooth headset under your protective clothing.)
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