NASA / Chris Gunn
Mirror, Mirror

Watch the James Webb Space Telescope Open Its Massive, Golden Mirrors

byTony Tran
May 16
NASA / Chris Gunn

"The primary mirror is a technological marvel."

Golden Mirror Wings

The James Webb Telescope has opened up its massive mirror “wings” for the last time on Earth before it launches later in 2021. 

NASA opened up the 21-foot set of golden mirrors as part of the telescope’s final tests to see if it can lock itself into place, according to the agency. The 18 hexagonal mirrors will be used to peer into the distant regions of space and observe the cosmos. 

“The primary mirror is a technological marvel,” said Lee Feinberg, the optical telescope element manager for the Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement. “The lightweight mirrors, coatings, actuators and mechanisms, electronics and thermal blankets when fully deployed form a single precise mirror that is truly remarkable.”

But don’t just take his word for it — you can watch the stunning footage for yourself below:

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Tough Testing

The Webb went through a fairly rigorous set of tests in preparation for its big launch later this year. 

It involved deploying each of the telescope’s 132 actuators and motors that help the mirrors move as one. They can also manipulate the mirrors to unfold it from its compact traveling shape once it’s launched into orbit.

The tests took place in the Webb’s testing control room in Redondo Beach, California. The room included unique gravity offsetting equipment to simulate the zero-gravity environment of space. 

“This is not just the final deployment test sequence that the team has pulled off to prepare Webb for a life in space, but it means when we finish, that the primary mirror will be locked in place for launch,” Feinberg said.

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The Webb telescope is slated to launch in late 2021. Once it does, NASA said that it hopes “Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distance worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.”

READ MORE: Webb’s Golden Mirror Wings Open One Last Time on Earth [NASA]

More on Webb telescope: Famed Physicist: Soon-to-Launch Telescope Likely to Discover Alien Life


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