Imagine launching a billion dollar telescope into space. There are thousands of things that could go wrong. The system complexity is ridiculously high and the cost of time and money are enormous. This doesn’t even factor in the public embarrassment if things go wrong.
This is the kind of pressure my friend Lee Feinberg is under.
Lee has a very specialized job. He’s one of the many talented people at NASA who designed, built and deployed the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Imagine the stress of being responsible for something this complicated and ground-breaking.
I’m a pretty anxious guy. I worry about things. Will the seller accept our offer? Is the inspection going to reveal a deal-breaking issue? These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what’s going on in Lee’s head.
I asked Shari, Lee’s wife, how he handles all this. “Oh, he doesn’t sleep for six months before a launch,” she laughed.
JWST is an extraordinary and audacious undertaking. It’s designed to see infrared images from billions of years in the past. It’s fair to say, most of us can’t even begin to comprehend how it was built and what it can do.
If you’re a space enthusiast, the QR code (below) will take you to Lee’s presentation on how NASA prepared for this herculean feat. You’ll get his insider’s view on how they worry about a speck of dust hitting the telescope’s mirror, or how every component must withstand hundreds of degrees of temperature change, or how such a fragile creation can withstand the G-forces of launching into space. I assure you that three minutes in your head will be spinning and you’ll have a new appreciation for those men and women we casually refer to as “Rocket Scientists”.
Picture me looking at a broken hot water heater. I pull out my phone, make a call, and it’s replaced in a few days. Now imagine Lee sitting at mission control, here on earth, and something goes wrong with the telescope. It’s hurtling through space thousands of miles away. There’s no one up there to fix it. A repair, if even feasible, is a billion dollar project and could take years to get done.
On Christmas day 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope launched into space. Lee is very happy to report that everything is working flawlessly and recently began delivering breathtaking photos of our cosmos. Good Things are Happening even millions of miles away.
Meanwhile, at my job, I just hope I put that new listing’s address into my GPS correctly…