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Alignment of segments in Webb’s primary mirror completed

Alignment image
Click for full image.

Astronomers and engineers have now successfully completed the alignment of the eighteen segments in the primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope.

On March 11, the Webb team completed the stage of alignment known as “fine phasing.” At this key stage in the commissioning of Webb’s Optical Telescope Element, every optical parameter that has been checked and tested is performing at, or above, expectations. The team also found no critical issues and no measurable contamination or blockages to Webb’s optical path. The observatory is able to successfully gather light from distant objects and deliver it to its instruments without issue.

The picture to the right shows that alignment, focused on a single star. As noted in the caption:

While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb’s optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up.

After many years delay and an ungodly budget overrun, thank goodness Webb appears to be working better than expected.

It will still be several months before actual science observations begin. Further more precise alignment adjustments need to be done for all its instruments and mirrors.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Robert,

    You and a lot of others (raises hand) were very skeptical of Webb, Although no science has yet been done, I like my crow lightly salted.

  • Phil Berardelli

    Bob, with the success of the Webb, something should now be clear to anyone at NASA with adult sensibilities: The agency is a Hydra, but with two heads instead of nine, and one of them must be removed for good. I’m talking about the government owned and controlled manned space program. While the Webb becomes another jewel in the crown of the robotic space program, along with the Mars landers and MRO, the spectacular Cassini probe, the venerable Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, and many other successful missions, the manned program has stumbled along for decades, swallowing billions and producing little of value. It’s time to turn over human space exploration to the entrepreneurs and confine NASA to robotic expeditions. That includes keeping NASA away from the next generation space station, which might finally be allowed to generate artificial gravity, an essential part of long-term human space flight. Hearty congratulations to the Webb team (I had my skepticism about its chances for success), but let’s cast a cold and stern eye on spending any more tax dollars for misbegotten NASA manned projects.

  • sippin_bourbon

    The collective sighs of relief that I have heard in astronomy circles are truly heartfelt. As I learn more about what can be learned in the non-visible spectrums, I am excited by JSWT’s upcoming images.

    I am still stuck on the notion that that the Next big observatory in space needs to be a Far Side Lunar Observatory. It would have limits, but Radio Telescopes shielded from the Earth would have advantages. And for visual and above spectrums, the data they gain in the 14 days (-ish) facing away from the sun would provide plenty of work for the 14 days it would be unavailable due to solar glare.

    Just my humble opinion.

  • pzatchok

    I am so relieved this thing is finally working.

    I want my crow in small barbecued bites.

  • john hare

    The next big NASA observatory needs to be NOT. Webb will produce amazing results, as has Hubble. The opportunity costs of these flagship observatories in time and money are constantly skipped over in the oohs and ahs. Dozens to hundreds of simpler, smaller units could have been returning good science to many researchers for decades given the same budget. The lost opportunities are along the lines of the SLS fiasco in that large numbers of Deltas and Atlases could have been purchased and flown over the last couple of decades. (This all started pre-Falcon) There are a lot of astronomers that will never get time on a space based telescope because there are limited available times in the schedule of the scope. The limited chances of getting observation time are even lower if not in the IN group.

    Not to mention that these flagship programs are taking so long that they are often obsolete before becoming operational. If a new unit was being designed right now assuming Starship would be available for launch in three years, what could be done with a limited budget of say $1B??

  • pawn


    Thanks for pointing this out. Both Webb and SLS are examples of Big Budget elitism. Why have all these little projects when you can just dump your money into one big, very hungry hole? Less work for the administrators. It’s what I call the Magic Bullet Syndrome. “One project for All!”

  • pzatchok

    I have no idea about this.

    As for astronomers who want to do research/observations.
    Would a one meter telescope in space work for the majority of them?
    With a hundred of them up there I bet a lot of research could get done pretty cheaply.

    A million to build each one and a million or so to launch with a 5 year life span would be pretty cheap in the long run.

  • “A million to build each one and a million or so to launch with a 5 year life span would be pretty cheap in the long run.”

    Life-cycle costs.

    That’s a lot of junk in valuable orbits.

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey,
    You wrote to Robert: “You and a lot of others (raises hand) were very skeptical of Webb, Although no science has yet been done, I like my crow lightly salted.

    I was not as worried that it wouldn’t work, but I had two other problems with Webb, neither of which can be solved even by a working telescope, so I won’t be joining you for the meal of crow. The cost was far too much, and as john hare noted, above, we have lost a lot of other science from space telescopes that will never be built because the money was eaten up by Webb’s cost overruns. The delays ate into the amount of coordinated observations with other telescopes, observations that will never be performed, because Webb wasn’t in space to do them, and the other telescopes with which they want to coordinate these observations are now approaching the ends of their lives. More science lost, because they just couldn’t manage this one project.

    The fact that Webb works as expected does not solve either of these problems, because it could have worked just as well had it slipped its schedule by the usual amount and run over-budget by the usual percentage.

    Don’t get me wrong. It is good that Webb works, but at what ultimate cost? Will it ever be worth all the other lost science?

    Meanwhile, my father sent me this “Smarter Every Day” video: (one hour)
    “Why Are there Holes in the James Webb Sunshield?”

    The name of the video is misleading, because the holes question is a minor point. The video is really about measuring the shape of the sunshield to make sure that the photons between the layers are able to work their way out and carry away the heat better than the usual thermal blankets that I used on the satellites and space-instruments that I built. By the way, those thermal blankets also had holes, and for the same reason.

  • Edward,

    I’m a little confused by your argument:

    Webb sucked up a lot of resources that were not, and now, cannot, be used for other projects (opportunity cost).

    Implication: Humans won’t be around much longer.

    If we plan to be around a while, then the desired observations and science will be done. If we aren’t gong to be around, it’s pointless, anyway.

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey”If we plan to be around a while, then the desired observations and science will be done.

    That science may or may not be done, as it may not come up again in the next decadal survey (not everything that is unfunded in one survey comes up again in the next), and if it is done, then what future science will not be done, what other opportunity cost will be paid. This goes on until the end of time. Because of the cost overruns, there is science in the far distant future that will not happen.

    The same goes for Project Apollo. Many detractors complained that that money could have gone to pay many people to not work, as we do today. For that matter, what is the opportunity cost of paying people to not work today?

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