COVID-19 pandemic halts NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope development

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA did its first assessment to determine the mission-critical work that requires personals onsite, the work that can be done by employees remote in the safety of their home, and the projects that can be paused. Based on the assessment, NASA is suspending the integration and testing of the James Webb Space Telescope.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope which is under development since 1996. It is planned to be the successor of Hubble Space Telescope. With its 18 gold-plated beryllium hexagonal mirror segments, it creates a 6.5-meter diameter mirror, providing improved infrared resolution and sensitivity over Hubble. Initially planned for a 2007 launch, the program ran into delays, cost over-runs, and design changes and now scheduled for March 2021 launch.

Technicians successfully performed a critical test on Webb’s 5-layer sun shield | Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn.

According to NASA, the decision to suspend work on the James Webb Space Telescope could change as the situation evolves in a week. So far, NASA did not provide any timeline for the work to recommence.

To ensure the safety of the space station crew, all operations to support the International Space station would continue, including re-supply, to have them fully stocked. NASA also would continue with the Commerical Crew Program; the program is a partnership with the American Aerospace industry to develop and fly human space transportation systems to and from low-Earth orbits (LEO).

The Mars 2020 missions, which include the Mars Helicopter and the Mars Perseverance Rover, are to continue, so does the supercomputing facility.

nasa mars rover 2020
Mars 2020 rover (Perserverance). | Image Source: NASA

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Source: TechSpot

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