Watch CBS News

Baltimore Is Hub For NASA's New James Webb Space Telescope

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- You don't need rockets to be a center for space science.

It's been happening in Baltimore for years.

Alex DeMetrick reports, Baltimore's link to the universe is about to expand.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been unlocking secrets for the past 27 years.

During all that time, it has been controlled at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

But Hubble's images are downloaded to the Space Telescope Science Institute on the Johns Hopkins campus, which is now preparing to take on the James Webb Space Telescope.

Not just the science, but control operations as well.

"We've hired our operations staff and they're practicing and rehearsing for launch, and we'll be continuing to do that for the next 18 months," says Rusty Whitman, of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

It will take that long to complete tests on this next-generation space telescope, and move it a million miles from Earth.

The Webb will see farther out than Hubble, to the edge of the big bang.

"And what we'll be looking for are the first starts and galaxies that formed after the big bang," a NASA Goddard scientist says. "How the black holes first grew., how are stars being made today."

But before those first observations are made, the Webb will need 6 months to get into position, and bring on-board instruments on-line as well.

That's what operations staff in Baltimore are training for.

"The first month is pretty intense," Whitman says. "That's when all the developments happen. We'll have approximately 150 to 200 people here covering 24/7 operations for most of that 6 months."

It's expected Hubble will still be working once Webb is up and running, making Baltimore a center for out of this world science.

"Baltimore is really kind of the center of astronomy here, not just for Hubble, but for JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) as well, and we hope to keep that going."

Even though the Webb Space Telescope will be controlled out of Baltimore, NASA is building a separate control center in Greenbelt as a back-up.

Follow @CBSBaltimore on Twitter and like WJZ-TV | CBS Baltimore on Facebook

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.