Mar 142013
The James Webb Space Telescope will soon launch into space, but before it has even left, the technologies used in its construction are already finding uses back here on Earth.

NASA is responsible for more Earth-bound technologies than just space ice cream; the organization’s research has led to everything from new kinds of artificial limbs to better fire-fighting equipment (and don’t forget Tang). While at SXSW, I had the chance to check out a full-scale model of the giant James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a 21-foot in diameter telescope that will be sent into space in 2018 to find the first galaxies that formed in our universe.

JWST has already taught us a lot, even though it has yet to be launched. That’s because new technologies had to be invented just to make it work. Below, some of the highlights.


In order to measure the shape of the telescope’s mirrors (they’re aspheres, or lenses with shape profiles that aren’t cylinders or spheres), NASA had to invent better sensing technology. The result: the Scanning Shack-Hartmann Sensor, a new kind of measurement device that can also be used to better measure the shape of human eyes in a matter of seconds instead of hours. The technology has the potential to improve surgery and better diagnose eye diseases.


A lot of strength testing goes into telescope production–especially for a telescope that will be operating in -450 degree F weather. Thanks to JWST, a company called 4D Technologies had the opportunity to develop new techniques to measure composite materials. James Millerd, president of 4D Technology Corporation, explained in a statement: “Technology developed for the Webb telescope has also helped 4D Technologies to develop unique technology to measure strain in composite materials.” As we start building with crazier material than just wood and concrete, the testing that originated in the JWST could be invaluable.

Read more . . .

via FastCoExist – ARIEL SCHWARTZ

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