Spaceflight Insider

Webb project scientist speaks at NSCFC luncheon

Webb project scientist John Mather speaks at the July 2017 National Space Club Florida Committee luncheon. Photo Credit: Michael McCabe / SpaceFlight Insider

Webb project scientist John Mather speaks at the July 2017 National Space Club Florida Committee luncheon. Photo Credit: Michael McCabe / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — On Tuesday, July 11, the National Space Club Florida Committee held its monthly luncheon at the Radisson Resort in Port Canaveral. Each month, members of the group meet and invite a keynote invitee to showcase a certain aspect or particular project in the aerospace industry.

Tuesday’s special guest speaker was the senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, John Mather. He is also a senior astrophysicist of observational cosmology at NASA Goddard and comes from a long line of teachers and scientists on both sides of his family tree. He is also a Nobel Prize laureate in physics.

Mather has also worked on the COBE project; however, for this event, the topic of discussion centered around the highly anticipated upcoming James Webb Space Telescope mission – the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which is now in its 27th year on orbit.

“The JWST will deploy one million miles into deep space to study our cosmos with even greater detail along the Infrared Spectrum,” Mather said.

The instrument’s sensitivity is so precise that, according to Mather, long exposures could spot a bumblebee at the distance of the Moon.

Mather went on to note how the JWST was progressing and what stage of development the mission was currently in. By coincidence, it was announced the telescope’s primary mirror assembly had been placed into the historic Chamber A vacuum chamber at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for its 100-day cryogenic testing.

After that test is completed, it will be flown to California for final assembly and then shipped by barge to the Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana in preparation for launch in 2018. Given the size of the spacecraft, as well as other requirements, it will be launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket.

Mather noted the next space-based observatory could be larger in size and capability than even the JWST.

While committee members are invited to attend meetings such as Tuesday’s, anyone interested can also attend for a small fee. Attendees for this event included people from SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, Space Florida, and numerous other companies and organizations.



A native of Lonedell, Missouri, Michael McCabe is a former Long Island firefighter and emergency medical technician. He is a non-active Florida EMT with 20 years of fire rescue experience. He is also a lifelong science fiction and space enthusiast. At the age of 10, he watched in his school classroom as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. In 2008, he moved to the Sunshine State and works as a private tour guide at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for a private company based in Orlando. McCabe has been a fan of SpaceFlight Insider since our inception in 2013. He reached out to ask how he could assist our efforts to spread space flight awareness. Shortly thereafter, he was welcomed into our expanding team.

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