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Beyer Adds Context to Webb Telescope’s Epic Reveal

This Monday President Biden unveiled the James Webb Space Telescope’s (JWST) first full-color scientific image. Webb, the largest and most complex observatory ever launched into space, has been preparing to begin its science work over the last six months. The image release marks the beginning of Webb’s science operations. JWST is an international collaboration among the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The remaining images will be released sequentially.

“The mesmerizing first scientific image from the James Webb Space Telescope is breath-taking,” said Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairman Don Beyer of Falls Church. “JWST has been a top priority for astronomers for decades, and these images represent the realization of that long-standing goal and the culmination of a tremendous effort of a generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians.

A PHOTO of the Southern Ring Nebula. (Photo: NASA.)

Beyer continued, “This technological feat also represents the opening of an incredible era of discovery that I think will extend long into the future. In these images from just the first round of observations, we see physical phenomena that span space and time like we never have seen before, all in stunning detail.
“I am thrilled for the scientists who will study these images, and I am thrilled for young people who will grow up with them and be inspired to think big and be curious. JWST is a fantastic tool of discovery, and it is only just getting started.”

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was built in partnership with Northrop Grumman Corporation of Greater Falls Church.

In a statement from Northrop Grumman this week, it was asserted that “some of the world’s most innovative minds in engineering and science came together to create the most powerful telescope ever launched. Now Northrop Grumman marks another historic milestone for our legacy of defining possible in space,” said Tom Wilson, corporate vice president and president, Space Systems Sector, Northrop Grumman.

“Northrop Grumman is proud to lead our industry partners in the design, build, and total system integration of the observatory. We’re opening a new era of space exploration with the first image you see today, thanks to the groundbreaking engineering and partnership with NASA and the science community.”

As the most powerful space telescope in space, Webb also is the first space deployable telescope built to fit inside a rocket fairing. The observatory is designed to see the first light from the earliest stars and galaxies.

Ever since completing its million-mile journey to its solar orbit, Lagrange Point 2 (L2), on Jan. 24, Webb has been executing telescope and scientific commissioning activities. This includes the completion of critical mirror alignments, the cooling of its four scientific instruments to their cryogenic operating temperatures, such as the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) which is enabled by Northrop Grumman cryocooler technology, and checking off 17 scientific instrument modes to ready the telescope for its historic mission.

Northrop Grumman leads the industry team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest, most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. NASA heads an international partnership that includes both the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Webb Telescope project, and the Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for science and mission operations, as well as ground system development.

Northrop Grumman describes itself as “a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance, and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.”

“These images give us an unparalleled look at the universe and it’s only the beginning of what Webb will discover about the origins of the universe, lifecycle or stars, evolution of galaxies and more,” said House committee chair Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. “As a steadfast supporter of Webb and its mission, I am elated to see these images this week — images that have been 20 years of hard work in the making. Thank you to the dedicated engineers, scientists, and researchers whose efforts made this possible, and congratulations to NASA and its partners on this historic accomplishment. Like other historic feats in space that came before it, Webb’s discoveries will inspire an entire generation. I will continue to follow along as Webb deepens our understanding of the universe.”

“This image is the product of years of hard work and dedication by NASA and its partners, and it showcases the incredible value of America’s innovative and collaborative approach to space science,” said House committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK). “The James Webb Space Telescope will allow us to see farther back in space and time than we ever have before, giving us insights into how the first galaxies formed more than 13 billion years ago. I’d like to congratulate all the dedicated scientists, technicians, engineers, and staff who made this possible. I look forward to seeing JWST’s discoveries and I hope that it inspires the next generation of STEM students to pursue their dreams.”