Systems Engineering Seminar

Science Systems Engineering for JWST – Why are we building it like this?

Presented by:
Dr. John C. Mather, JWST Senior Project Scientist, Code 660

Tuesday, October 9, 2012,1:00 p.m.
Building 3 Auditorium


Science Systems Engineering for JWST – Why are we building it like this?

Dr. John C. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he specializes in infrared astronomy and cosmology. He received his Bachelor’s degree in physics at Swarthmore College and his PhD in physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

As an NRC postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York City), he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer (74-76), and came to GSFC to be the Study Scientist (76-88), Project Scientist (88-98), and the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE. He and his team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy. The COBE team also discovered the cosmic anisotropy (hot and cold spots in the background radiation), now believed to be the primordial seeds that led to the structure of the universe today. It was these findings that led to Dr. Mather receiving the Nobel Prize in 2006.

Dr. Mather now serves as Senior Project Scientist (95-present) for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the great Hubble Space Telescope.



Dr. John C. Mather will review the major scientific objectives for JWST, and how they drove the mission concept and detailed design trades. Key technical requirements include aperture, wavelength range, and sensitivity, which imply choices about orbit, cooling technology, deployment, and hardware technologies, with implications for possible servicing, launch vehicle, communications, orbit control, etc. Lessons learned from other missions, especially the Hubble Space Telescope, include the need and ability for on-orbit focusing and wavefront adjustment, and robust test programs to minimize risks when servicing is impossible. He will describe the scientific requirements, how they were chosen, and how they are still valid after 16 years of study, despite rapid scientific progress and especially the discovery of thousands exoplanets, and the cosmic dark energy. Dr. Mather will close with some speculation on possible discoveries that the JWST might enable.



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