NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the largest space telescope ever built, enters a heavy testing phase ahead of its planned 2018 launch. Roselle Chen reports.
The largest and most powerful space telescope ever built is due to launch in October 2018. Now undergoing rigorous testing, the James Webb telescope is set to surpass its predecessor, the Hubble, in many ways. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES WEBBSPACE TELESCOPE DEPUTY PROGRAM DIRECTOR, DR. ERIC SMITH, SAYING: "It's optimized to work in the infrared part of the spectrum. This means that we can use Webb to see things that Hubble cannot. And so we will look back to see the very first stars and galaxies born after the big bang literally watch the universe light up for the first time." For the next 18 months, the over $8-billion (USD) Webb will undergo extensive testing including simulations of the rocket launch, and a cryogenic test that will expose the telescope to temperatures reaching -400 Fahrenheit (-240 Celsius). Scientists hope the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to study the atmosphere on recently discovered Earth-sized planets in a nearby solar system orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 star. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES WEBBSPACE TELESCOPE DEPUTY PROGRAM DIRECTOR, DR. ERIC SMITH, SAYING: "One of the first things I'm sure the telescope will do is study these atmospheres to see if they might be places where life could exist." When assembled, the Webb telescope is as tall as a three-story building. According to NASA, it will fold "origami-style" into an Ariane 5 rocket and deploy like a "Transformer" once in space.