A technician examines 6 of the 18 mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Engineers there recently conducted cryogenic tests on the beryllium mirrors to study how well they maintain their shape at the ultralow temperatures the telescope will reach in space. This helps predict how well the telescope will image from infrared sources. All of the mirrors will undergo two series of tests lasting six weeks each in a helium-cooled vacuum chamber that hits temperatures as low as -415 degrees Fahrenheit. Tests are projected to wrap up in June, and the completed observatory–a larger successor to the Hubble Space Telescope–is scheduled for launch in 2013.
Courtesy David Higginbotham/NASA