NASA James Webb Space Telescope
Photo credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
NASA successfully deployed the James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space. As this telescope progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers commaneded the spacecraft’s internal systems to fully extend and latch its iconic 21 feet 4-inch primary mirror, appearing just like it would after it has been launched to orbit. Read more for a video and additional information.

How much detail a telescope can see is directly related to the size of the mirror that collects light from the objects being observed, and Webb’s mirror is the biggest of its kind that NASA has ever built. In order to conduct groundbreaking science experiments, its primary mirror needs to be so large that it cannot fit inside any rocket available in its fully extended form. Webb is a collection of movable parts employing applied material science that have been specifically designed to fold themselves to a compact formation that is considerably smaller than when the observatory is fully deployed, similar to origami.

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Deploying both wings of the telescope while part of the fully assembled observatory is another significant milestone showing Webb will deploy properly in space. This is a great achievement and an inspiring image for the entire team,” said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.