Historic NASA test chamber upgraded for James Webb Space Telescope
A giant NASA vacuum chamber originally built to test the spacecraft that astronauts used to fly to the moon is now ready to check the space agency's next-generation telescope before it launches into deep space.
Chamber A located in the Space Environment Simulation Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston will begin testing components for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2014, leading up to the tennis-court-size observatory's planned launch four years later.
The largest high-vacuum, cryogenic-optical test chamber in the world, Chamber A has been retrofitted over the past several years to be able to reproduce the extremely-cold environment that the telescope will be exposed to once it enters orbit one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
"We are merging the past with the future," Mary Cerimele, NASA's laboratory manager for Chamber A, told reporters during a media tour of the facility Thursday (April 4). "The past is encapsulated in all of the technology and structure surrounding Chamber A and the future, the improvements for James Webb."