...what it was like to help build the James Webb Space Telescope? (with Stephanie Hernandez)
Play • 25 min

In the coming weeks, NASA will launch the James Webb Space Telescope—the most powerful telescope ever put into space. This $10 billion technical marvel is a complex and massive spacecraft—think of something roughly the size of a tennis court—that scientists and engineers have been working on for decades to explore the deepest reaches of our universe.

Many experts view Webb as the rightful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched in 1990 into a low orbit around Earth. When Hubble didn’t work properly, NASA could send astronauts up in a space shuttle to repair it.

But here’s the tricky part: Webb isn’t going into low Earth orbit. Instead, it will be placed into an orbit about a million miles away from Earth, where there’s no way to reach it after launch. It needs to work right the first time.

Do you ever wonder what it was like to help build the James Webb Space Telescope?

Stephanie Hernandez is a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman working on the James Webb Space Telescope. She is part of the team that tests and verifies literally thousands of things on the telescope while it’s on the ground first, to make sure that it will work in space later. Stephanie gave us a peek behind the scenes of what it’s like to work on a such a technologically complex and high-stakes spacecraft, how she got started at Northrop Grumman as a summer intern, and what this whole experience means to her as a first-generation college student.

Celebrate the launch of NASA's newest premiere space science observatory with more virtual activities and events from the California Science Center

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