NASA took another step in the development of the James Webb space telescope, Hubble's successor. After engineers from the U.S. special agency successfully joined the two halves of the telescope in 2019, the team of experts successfully tested the huge main mirror, having successfully placed it in the position it will have when it reaches space.
In a statement, NASA says it has been making progress in preparation for launch in 2021. Technicians and engineers conducting tests at Northrop Grumman's facilities in California have commanded the telescope's internal system to take on the configuration it will have when entering orbit, the main mirror having a total dimension of 6.5 meters.
The special agency explains that carrying out tests on the telescope has become more difficult, since it is already assembled, but they are nonetheless essential to check if it can open and close its wings. The team of engineers has also successfully added to the telescope's main mirror equipment that is capable of simulating the zero-gravity environment it encounters in space.
Regularly tested, in January 2018 it was the turn of the NASA team to perform a low temperature resistance test. At the time, the process was filmed and published in a timelapse where the entire nine-month preparation was exposed in just over 90 seconds.
If everything goes as planned, once it reaches space, the telescope will explore the cosmos through infrared light, from planets and moons within our solar system to the oldest and most distant galaxies.
NASA says, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic led it to adapt plans for preparing the space telescope. To ensure safety, the team at Northrop Grumman's facilities had to be reduced and, starting in April, the project will be temporarily put on hold. The agency will now decide what direction to take depending on the evolution of the pandemic.