With the James Webb Space Telescope, humanity has done the right thing

If that fails, everything could still be up for grabs, I believe, except the decision to build such a telescope in the first case. To bu...


If that fails, everything could still be up for grabs, I believe, except the decision to build such a telescope in the first case. To build it, it took the best of humans: cooperation and dedication to knowledge, audacity and humility, respect for nature and our own ignorance, and the courage to continue to pick up the pieces of failure and start over. And even.

“It’s amazing. We’re about 600,000 miles from Earth and we actually have a telescope,” said Bill Ochs, Webb’s project manager at Goddard Space Flight Center, when the telescope finally spread its golden wings. at the beginning of the month.

We stagger under the weight of our knowledge of our own mortality. Faced with the ultimate abyss of fate, we can find honor and dignity in having played the cosmic game to win, trying to know and feel as much as possible in the brief centuries given to us.

Once, a long time ago in another life, I happened to sit next to Ricardo Giacconi, one of the great captains of Big Science and later to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, on a flight to a conference we were both attending in San Diego. At the time, he was working for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and was looking forward to the launch of his dream project, a satellite – later called the Einstein Observatory – that would record X-ray images from violent objects. like black holes.

Dr. Giacconi, however, had offered to name his satellite Pequod, after the doomed ship Ahab had commanded in pursuit of Moby Dick, much to the amusement and perplexity of his colleagues.

So I asked him why he wanted to name his dream creation after a doomed whaler.

Dr. Giacconi replied that he liked the connection between whaling history and New England. Then he started a dissertation on Dante, of all people. During the poet’s visit to hell in the Inferno section of the “Divine Comedy”, he finds Odysseus being consumed by flames, as punishment for his sins, schemes and swindles during the Trojan War and his wandering homecoming.

Odysseus tells the story of his life and travels, how he returned to Ithaca but got bored and set out with his men on a journey through the Pillars of Hercules into the great unknown western sea. When his crew became nervous and wanted to turn back, he told them to straighten up.

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Newsrust - US Top News: With the James Webb Space Telescope, humanity has done the right thing
With the James Webb Space Telescope, humanity has done the right thing
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