After hitting the Texas coastline as a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey has left destruction in its wake. Thankfully, however, the flooding has not affected the testing or housing of NASA’s James Webb Telescope.
The James Webb Space Telescope is part of NASA’s Next Generation Space Telescope program. Although not a replacement for Hubble, it has been described as the older telescope’s scientific successor. James Webb will offer unprecedented resolution and is set to be launched in October 2018. The telescope, which had been developed in Maryland was transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston for cryo-testing. The tests it is undergoing will ensure that all aspects of the multi-million-dollar project will operate normally in the extreme cold of deep space.
Following the hurricane’s initial devastation, many took to Twitter to express concern for the safety of the James Webb satellite. NASA’s official Twitter handle responded to the concerns stating, “We appreciate the concern for @NASAWebb. Our personnel and hardware are safe and everyone is taking appropriate precautions.”
Although the main force of Hurricane Harvey has since dissipated, weather forecasts have indicated that heavy rains are likely to persist through to the weekend. As a result, it is unlikely that JSC and the James Webb telescope are out of the woods just yet.
NASA’s aptly named Aqua (latin for water) satellite has been collecting data to assist scientists with tracking areas that will be hit with heavy rainfall. With this data in hand, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued warnings for additional heavy rainfall stating, “Harvey is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 15 to 25 inches through Friday over the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana.” NASA, in turn, has stated that the agency will take the potential threat to JSC’s facilities and the James Webb telescope on a “day-to-day basis”. The agency has also restricted access to JSC to mission-critical personnel to reduce the risk to its staff.