T – 7.5 π x 107
Last week found me at, among other things, the NASA SBIR conference on mirror manufacturing. The main attraction being the last day visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to see what can be seen of the integration and test of the mirrors and the instruments (NIRCAM, NIRSPEC, MIRI, and FGS). There is encouraging news. It does appear that most of the hardware now exists for both the telescope and the instruments. Each of the instruments arrived at GSFC during this year and they are in some phase of initial testing. GSFC is the facility where the thermal and vibration testing will occur as well as integration and testing.
At the conference, Glatzel (yes, the son of the optical designer who inspired Juan Rayces optical design algorithm, found in Eikonal) reported that Tinsley (the L3/SSG version, not the ZYGO/ASML version) has delivered the last of the mirrors and yes, they are defining the state-of-the-art. The numbers are not yet packaged for public dissemination, but, they are impressive.
Now, what about that title? I have no idea how many of you know that the number of seconds in a year is conveniently close to the number π x 107 (365x24x60x60=31,536,000), something that was pointed out to me back in undergraduate days. So, although it did “feel” like the JWST is moving out of the one challenge after another (which can be fun, but expensive) phase and into the relatively routine. This probably not quite the case, but, the project does appear to have moved to an important to phase. Below is a shot of one of the spare segments in a GSFC clean room (a really big one, as are most of the facilities at Goddard.
A spare segment from the JWST.
Following the center tour, Joe Howard, working with the host Phil Stahl and Peter Blake arranged for the group to see the “Science Sphere”. This is pretty fun. It is a suspended sphere, about 4-5 ft in diameter that forms for the screen for 4-6 projectors that are nicely integrated. Perhaps most impressive, the projectors can be fed by real-time data. There is the weather, including for example the worldwide weather in the summer of hurricanes, including, of course, Katrina. But, the most compelling was to watch the air traffic world-wide, in real-time – fascinating (and then we had to catch the airplane). One of the colorful earth resource images (somewhat fuzzy due to the lighting and motion) is below. If you get near the GSFC visitor center, be sure to arrange to see The Sphere.
An image from “The Science Sphere” at the GSFC Visitor Center.