NASA sends a lot of equipment into space to try and learn more about the formation of the universe. Whether the secrets are all around us, or ad the edges of our universe, NASA continues to make more and more powerful telescopes to be able to see further into our universe in the hopes that some kinds of clues will present themselves.
The latest space telescope project NASA is working on is the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA says will be the “premier observatory of the next decade” because of the advanced technology that the U.S.-based space agency is packing inside of it. It will supersede the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been used to observe distant objects in our universe since 1990.
Just at the end of October, NASA has achieved yet another major milestone of completing the new space telescope. This involved testing the heart of the telescope in space-like thermal conditions to make sure it worked and that it could hold up to the conditions; after all, the heart of the telescope will have to last in space for a very long time.
Testing the heart of the future James Webb Space Telescope, which is also known as the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) involved crane-dropping it into a massive vacuum and cryogenic testing chamber located in NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The point of the chamber is to suck away as much of the air as possible to simulate space-like conditions. This includes temperature, which was brought down to a space-like chill using liquid nitrogen and liquid helium.
"After we moved ISIM into the chamber, we close the lid. Then we pump air into the chamber, so we can continue to set up inside the chamber," said Jack Marshall, a NASA engineer working on the project. "Once everything is set, we pump out the air inside the chamber to create a vacuum. We then use liquid nitrogen and liquid helium to cool surfaces on the chamber walls and test structure, simulating the temperatures the telescope will see in space."
This is the last cryogenic test that the ISIM needs to pass before scientists will be ready to say the ISIM is ready to go up into space.
Space telescopes are very important to helping scientists learn more about our universe. As we’ve showed you before, the Earth’s atmosphere prevents a lot of instruments from being able to see things deep in space. Whether it’s light pollution, the magnetic fields, or our own air that acts as a light filter, our atmosphere obstructs a lot of visibility. We get around this by launching powerful telescopes into space and getting a clear view of things from there.