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The Minds Behind The James Webb Space Telescope Hope To Unlock The Universe's Secrets

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's been a little over a month since the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) blasted into space on its mission to capture images of the outer edges of our galaxy.

The $10 billion investment in space exploration is now 1 million miles from Earth, but those in control of this revolutionary telescope are much closer to home—at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

"This is the world center for space astronomy and it's right here in Baltimore," said Webb Commissioning Manager Keith Parrish, a Baltimore native.

A model of the telescope

Parrish and others gave WJZ a rare behind-the-scenes look at mission control, where they gave the commands to unfurl the tennis court-sized sunshield and to deploy the cryogenic mirrors 

"It's extremely rewarding to see everything come together," said Jessica Hart, an operation controller for the JWST. "Everyone come together and work as a team, and everyone is just so excited that everything is going really well."

When the time comes to start taking pictures, those at the Space Telescope Science Institute will be the ones releasing the shutter. 

"We'll send the commands up to the spacecraft and basically kick off a plan to tell the instruments to take specific images," Hart said.

Those images will open a window in time, giving us a glimpse at the earliest days of our universe, while capturing breathtaking images never before seen by a human eye.

"It will open new horizons," said Massimo Stiavelli, the head of the James Webb Space Telescope Mission Office. "We'll be able to see distant galaxies, we'll be able to penetrate dust clouds and see stars that are forming, and we'll be able to look at exoplanets and study their atmospheres."

The images have the potential to change how we view our universe, thanks in large part to the work being done right here in our own backyard.

"I would say what I'm most excited about is discovering what we don't even know we have questions about,"  Hart admitted.

Right now, the group is in the process of calibrating the telescope. They hope to have images to release sometime this summer.

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