Stony Point High School astronomy students had the opportunity to video conference with NASA contractor and physicist Matt Walsh and learn about current projects in space on March 12.
Walsh is working on a team assembling the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be a supplement to the Hubble Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018. This NASA project is expected to revolutionize the ability to study portions of space so far away that it is essentially looking back in time through the history of the universe, Walsh said.
During the video call, Walsh took the students through the parts of the telescope and explained the purpose of each piece of equipment. He also explained how the James Webb Space Telescope is similar and different to Hubble. The students learned that unlike Hubble, which required several space shuttle visits before it was working properly, the James Webb Space Telescope will be positioned too far away from Earth for any such missions, so it is imperative that everything works.
Stony Point astronomy teacher Wade Green said he was pleased with how this opportunity to speak to Walsh expanded horizons beyond the walls of the classroom. Through this experience, students were able to learn about what goes into a long-term NASA project, not only in terms of science, but also the procedures involved in making sure the telescope works after it is launched into orbit.
“This gave the students the opportunity to hear from a working scientist about the real-world application of the principles we teach in class,” Green said.