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You bet we do! We’re proud to say that more than a few Badgers have been involved in the design, development, testing, and operation of NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — the telescope that has shocked the world with beautifully clear images of galaxies far, far away formed a long, long time ago (and proved just how accurately every cosmic bowling alley and ’90s bus seat pattern portrays outer space). Michael Maseda spent six years on a team of scientists from the European Space Agency that planned and coordinated the JWST program before coming to the UW to teach astronomy. His earlier work on the telescope earned him a first go at the joystick. Maseda is using this opportunity to explore the growth of the universe and travel through time to take “baby pictures of galaxies.” Wei-Di Cheng ’93 helped get the telescope ready for safe deployment into space — no easy task considering the JWST is a $10 billion investment traveling into the outer reaches of space. (That’s well outside of AAA’s service area.) Cheng helped figure out the logistics of packing the telescope into an Ariane 5 rocket and worked to ensure that its paper-thin, tennis-court-sized sunshield would unfold properly after launch. As director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Kenneth Sembach PhD’92 oversees NASA’s flagship observatories and manages operations for multiple missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the JWST. On Christmas Day, 2021, Sembach oversaw the launch of the most expensive gift outer space has ever received.

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