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NASA Is Stress-Testing Its Next Gigantic Kickass Space Telescope

Watch an astrophysicist’s live talk on the telescope from the Perimeter Institute.
March 2, 2017, 5:00am

The Hubble Space Telescope, the first major optical telescope ever hurled into space, broke down a  lot. Since its launch in 1990, NASA has organized five separate missions to service the Hubble—and it was doable, even though the telescope is 300 miles away from Earth. In the final servicing mission in 2009, the Space Shuttle Atlantis carried four astronauts to the observatory for a 12-day mission, when they replaced old batteries and equipment, while adding two new instruments to expand the capabilities of the Hubble, which is still going strong. After its big brother, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launches in 2018, those sorts of fixes-on-the-fly won't be possible. Once the gigantic telescope—which is so big it can't fit inside any of NASA's rockets, and instead has to be folded up like origami to blossom once in space—is at its destination a million miles away, it's gone. If it breaks, it's done. And that would be a shame. Hubble redefined the way we see the universe around us, and JWST—a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency—will be Hubble on steroids. Astrophysicist Amber Straughn, who serves as the deputy project manager for the JWST Science Communications, is in Waterloo, Ontario today to give an update on the telescope. Read more on Motherboard