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Behind the Scenes at NASA

Here at NASA Goddard, we have a big cleanroom complex. It used to be taken up by the Hubble repair mission team, but the James Webb Space Telescope is moving in now that the Hubble is all taken care of! I’m currently the webmaster of the Webb Telescope site, so for me, it’s pretty exciting that we’re starting to see hardware for this mission arrive at Goddard.

Right now, we have a couple things in the cleanroom. One is the structure that will contain Webb’s instruments, called the ISIM (for Integrated Science Instrument Module) – and it is the real thing, the flight version! Right now it looks like a latticed black box and one of the reasons it’s here is to undergo cryo testing.

I started out walking over from my own building to the cleanroom complex. You can see it in front of me. It was a really nice day!

Cleanroom Tour

Here we go through the doors into the first high bay area.

Cleanroom Tour

Now we’re through the doors and walking past vacuum chambers (to the left).

Cleanroom Tour

In front of us is a really big vacuum chamber. Inside is what we called the “helium shroud.” ¬†This is what we’re going to cryo test the ISIM in. The big chamber you see isn’t able to get quite cold enough, so we’ve built the shroud, which when cooled by helium, will get to even colder temps (more than 300 degrees below zero F!). The ISIM goes inside the helium shroud, and the shroud inside of the vacuum chamber you see here!

Cleanroom Tour

Moving along, you can see a display of things left from the Hubble repair mission. One of the tools you see on the table (the white arrow is pointing to it) is the actual piece of hardware they used to contain the tiny screws when they removed the cover plate on the Advanced Camera for Surveys to fix it!

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

@NASA_Hubble on Twitter let me know that the NIRSpec (Near-InfraRed Spectrometer) instrument was sitting in the acoustic test chamber, so I had to get a look, since I had only seen it from a distance, sitting in the giant cleanroom before. Sure enough, there it was! This is a test version of the instrument, not the flight one.

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

This is the giant crate that it was transported to Goddard in!

Cleanroom Tour

To the right of where the crate is sitting, there’s a little window where you can peer into the big cleanroom at ground level. Across the way you can see the big observation window on the other side of the building. We’ll head over there later. To the left you can see (covered up with gray/silver sheets) the MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) test unit, and the ISIM.

Cleanroom Tour

If you turn around, this is what this section of the high bay behind us looks like. There are still a lot of Hubble-era decorations, like those giant banners!

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

There’s a door not far from here that leads to the giant centrifuge. You can see a tour group standing in there for scale! They’ll be putting the ISIM in it and spinning it up to 8 g’s next year sometime!

Cleanroom Tour

Cleanroom Tour

We’ll head over to those big observation windows on the other side of the cleanroom next. On the way I passed by the room where the people who work in the cleanroom change into the “bunny suits” they have to wear. There are all kinds of instructions that are flashed on this screen in that room. I think this warning is kind of funny.

Cleanroom Tour

Next we head up the stairs, passing by more stuff from the last Hubble servicing mission. You can see pics of the crew of astronauts. We interviewed one of them, Dr. John Grunsfeld, in a previous episode.

Cleanroom Tour

Here’s the viewing area – we’ve got some Webb Telescope stuff there now!

Cleanroom Tour

Here’s the view through the windows. In front of us is the ISIM, which is covered up right now. (This is what it looked like the previous week.)

Cleanroom Tour

Looking over to the left, there’s a big structure called the OSIM (Optical telescope element SIMulator). It’s basically simulates Webb’s telescope and will be used to test the instruments.

Cleanroom Tour

In the back of the cleanroom, in that fenced in area, is the MIRI test instrument. The NIRSpec was sitting right next to it previously. Now we actually have all three test instruments at Goddard!

Cleanroom Tour

That brings us to the end of our little tour! Last stop is a look at the front of this building, which is kind of cool-looking.

Cleanroom Tour

Here’s a nice older feature about some of the things we saw on my little tour.

If you want to read more about what’s going on with Webb, you can check out our website. We actually have a webcam where you can check out what’s going on in the cleanroom in real time. You can also follow us on Twitter, we’re @NASAWebbTelescp. You can usually find us hanging out with @NASAblueshift at tweetups!

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