HOUSTON – Imagine putting a giant space telescope into a gigantic freezer.
That is what will soon happen at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
“Chamber A” is the name of one of the biggest freezers in the world. It can reach temperatures close to absolute zero.
That is close to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a huge vacuum chamber and the largest of its kind in the world housed in Houston’s backyard.
"This is one of the toughest places in the world to be unless you are an infrared space telescope,” said James Webb Space Telescope Program Director and Scientist Eric Smith. He said, "I know sometimes in the summer in Houston you wish you could go into something that cold, but it's in here that we need to test, under vacuum conditions the extreme cold that this has to operate under."
The 21-foot mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope will allow astronomers to study every part of the history of our universe.
The goal is to make the perfect telescope. But as every Houstonian understands, the weather conditions during hurricane season in Texas can be far from perfect.
There is a plan to temporarily hit the pause button if needed.
Johnson Space Center Project Manager Jonathan Homan said, "Save the hardware. We would stop. We have diesel generators and diesel compressors to back up our pumps and our systems...our liquid nitrogen system can operate for several weeks."
Testing will begin at JSC in July and run through October. Then the deep space telescope will be shipped out and prepared for launch in 2018.