A Glimpse Into the Future of Science

The future of science is on display right now in Baltimore. A full-scale model of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be on view in front of the Maryland Science Center through Oct. 26. I had the opportunity to visit it today, and it is amazing.

The Webb telescope will be the most scientifically powerful telescope NASA has ever built — 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the next of our great observatories. It will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. The telescope will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting star formation in our own galaxy with the solar system.

The telescope is a complex program for which 10 new technologies had to be invented. All of these challenges have been conquered, including the capabilities that will be required for this huge instrument to be deployable, work at cryogenic temperatures, and maintain precise pointing and attitude control from its orbit approximately one million miles from Earth.

That’s what we do at NASA. We create what doesn’t exist, to create and win the future. While most of our missions occur in space, the investments made–and the jobs created — to support these missions — happen right here on Earth. NASA has always been an engine for economic growth and job creation, and the Webb telescope is just the latest example.

I was privileged to pilot the mission that deployed Hubble, and I am very excited about the promise of Webb. Science remains integral to NASA’s future, and just in the past months we’ve launched missions to Jupiter and the Moon. We’ll launch a new Earth-observing satellite later this month, and in November the Curiosity rover will be on its way to Mars. Those are just a few of NASA’s newest science missions, not to mention the dozens already in orbit around Earth, zooming across the solar system and peeling back the veil on the cosmic phenomena and other planets that are enormous distances from us.

I know tomorrow’s science leaders and engineers will be inspired by the life-size Webb mockup. Just as Hubble re-wrote science textbooks, Webb will take us even farther on our cosmic journey. I hope you can visit, and when the Webb telescope launches, you’ll have a tangible image in your mind of just how incredible our newest great observatory is going to be.