Astronomical Engines, Big Complicated Machines

Making the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mirrors

The back side of a JWST mirror segment

Good morning, everyone.

Today I’m going to talk more about the mirrors on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and what went into making them. As you remember from the article on the journey that the mirror segments take during manufacturing (you all did read that article, correct?), the segments make 14 stops during the process. I’m not going write up each stage of the fabrication, otherwise we’d be here all day and I have other things that need to be done, plus my foot hurts.

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The Travels of the JWST Mirror Segments

What a long, strange trip...

Good morning, everyone.

I was doing further research into the James Webb Space Telescope, and I discovered that the mirror segments made quite a journey in the process of their creation.  As part of their amazing fabrication, the 18 segments of the main mirror make 14 stops to 11 different places in eight states around the U.S. to complete their manufacture. You could even call it ‘High-mileage High-tech’, especially because ‘High-kilometerage’ sounds stupid [thumbs nose in the direction of Canada]. The image at the top is a map of the route each mirror segment would take, and resembles nothing as much as a diagram of the path of a pinball during play that hits all of the drop targets, lights up all the specials, and gets an extra ball.

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Astronomical Engines

A Look at the James Webb Space Telescope

An artist's rendering of the JWST

Good morning again, everyone.

It still is the morning, correct? My coffee is still hot and [opens curtains] it’s quite bright out. Morning it is.

Today we’re going to look at the New Technology Space Telescope, now known as the James Webb Space Telescope. As I’m sure you all know, James Webb was the second administrator of NASA, and evidently did some good things as a bureaucrat during his reign there. It looks to be an ill-omened name, however, considering all of the bureaucratic bungling and huge cost overruns that the project has had, and is still having. The project was originally estimated to cost $1.6 billion, but as development progressed, that grew to $5 billion by the time that construction was confirmed and scheduled to start in 2008, with a launch date of 2011. Because of the cost overruns, NASA shuffled the management, but that caused a big delay in the planned launch date, which was now pushed back to 2018 at least, and maybe out to 2020. Maybe longer. And the cost keeps going up. In July 2011, the cost had risen to $6.5 billion, and in August it rose to 8.7 billion for the cost of the telescope and 5 years of operation.

Eight point seven billion dollars. Jeebus H. Fooking Kleist on a ladder.


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