After Decades Working on James Webb Space Telescope, Astronomer Marcia Rieke on the Anticipation of its Orbit

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Klaus Pontoppidan, project scientist in the Webb mission office, holds a model as he speaks during an interview ahead of the James Web Space Telescopes launch at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 3, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

After one month and 1.5 million kilometers of travel since its launch on Christmas, the James Webb Space Telescope is set to reach its orbit destination Monday. It’s the beginning of a profound shift in the way we see deep space: the telescope will be able to look back 13.7 billion years back in time. To get to this point has taken 10 billion dollars and a quarter of a century of work. For nearly all of that time, astronomer Marcia Rieke was on the project. As she waits for the telescope to thrust into orbit, we’ll talk with her about what it’s like to see a career’s worth of preparation finally come to fruition and what she hopes to learn from the telescope’s journey.


Marcia Rieke, Regents' professor of astronomy and astronomer, Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona; principal investigator, NIRCam on the James Webb Space Telescope