NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

SpaceCrafts: Making a James Webb Space Telescope Costume

  • By Maggie Masetti
  • November 12, 2015
  • Comments Off on SpaceCrafts: Making a James Webb Space Telescope Costume

Note: A childhood friend of mine came for a visit this summer with her science-obsessed seven-year-old, Oren. He was so taken with what he saw that he wanted a James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) costume for Halloween. They did such a nice job with it (and the accompanying Ariane 5 costume for his little brother), that I asked them to do a guest blog for us. Oren dictated this to his mom. (I only made minor edits.) He did a great job and I hope you enjoy! – Maggie

James Webb Space Telescope Costume: Halloween 2015
By Oren Cohen, age 7, Berkeley, California

The inspiration

This past August, we went to NASA Goddard, hoping to find some good stuff. Boy, we really got what we wanted! Even something unexpected, a Halloween costume inspiration.

We started by seeing ICESAT-2, and we saw some clean room tents next to vacuum chambers and cool, gigantic cranes. Then we saw some diagrams of ICESAT-2; we didn’t know how it did the stuff it did, but we got the main idea of what it did: studying ice, climate and land elevation (ICE) on our planet.

Then we walked to a GIGANTIC vacuum chamber/helium + nitrogen refrigerator. It was where they would test the parts for James Webb; they have an even bigger one where they are going to test the whole telescope in Houston. I learned that liquid helium is really, really, really cold.

Maggie and Oren

Maggie and Oren in front of the huge vacuum chamber.

When we walked outside, we saw a really big round room, and it was the centrifuge where they tested [things like JWST’s] instruments. This was next to the James Webb Telescope clean room. I saw the robot arm, the storage for the 18 mirrors, and the display showing the layers of the primary mirror parts – the very thin layer of reflective gold and the thick, strong layer of beryllium.


The idea and getting started

At home, we decided to think about our Halloween costume; maybe it should be big. “I think we should start early. I know, we can do the James Webb Telescope.” So, at the start of October, we set to work. First, we came up with a rough sketch of how it was going to work. My mom didn’t think that the sunshield would be a good idea, so she sketched hers. Then, I didn’t like her ideas. We took a break. In that time, my mom came up with a new idea and showed me a new diagram. I said, “I love it.” Then, we made a list of things we had to get.

Crafty Plans

First, we went to an art supply store to get a gold sharpie and gold face paint for the mirrors. Then, we went to our local toy store, and got a hula hoop to be the frame for the sunshield. Then, we went to a local fabric store, to get the silver fabric for the sunshield. Finally, we went to craft stores to get a headband, black pipe cleaners and straws.

The secondary mirror headband

Our first task was to make a secondary mirror. We hadn’t had a plan, so we guessed it was best to make it out of gold colored card stock and pipe cleaners inside straws. I cut out a card stock circle, colored it gold and punched holes in it to place the pipe cleaners. I slid the pipe cleaners into the straws and attached it to the headband. Then, I threaded the secondary mirror onto the other end of the pipe cleaners. I tried it on, it fit, and I could see above and below it.

Secondary Mirror template

Secondary Mirror coloring

Pipecleaner headband

Secondary Mirror

Trying Secondary Mirror on

Secondary Mirror

Then, I cut out the three-on-each-side mirrors that fold out during JWST deployment (as you can see on the picture below). We did this out of the same card stock as the secondary mirror. Then I colored it gold and made a spare hexagon to trace on my face when it’s time to paint the 12 other mirrors on my face.

Primary Mirror template

Mirror Wings

The sunshield

Next, I measured the “sunshield” fabric over the hula hoop. We had to cut quite a bit of extra off (which we gave to our 10-month-old neighbor who is going to be a burrito for Halloween).


Now it was time to sew the sunshield into my pants (which was kind of embarrassing because it ruins the pants). I measured the diameter of the hula hoop to find the middle where my mom cut a small hole. She then cut triangles to make flaps to sew inside of the pants. Once it was sewn all the way around the pants, I held up the hula hoop while my mom duct taped the sunshield to the hoop.



Sunshield sewing

Once the sunshield was done, we returned to the secondary mirror. I scotch taped the fold out mirrors to the straws so that they would be right beside my face.

Mirror Wings

The extras

I then made a momentum flap and my mom made a solar array out of cardboard and aluminum foil.

Momentum Flap

Momentum Flap

Since the main part was done, I really wanted my mom to add something else. The radiator box idea was just not working out. So we agreed on at least making the radio. To make it, we pipe cleanered through an inside-out paper plate so it looked like there was a white dish. I wasn’t sure that was what it looked like on JWST but I thought to just go with it.


The big night!

On Halloween, my mom used eyeliner to outline the mini mirrors for the big primary picture using the sample hexagon. It really blacked out the sample hexagon but that was okay because we wouldn’t need it anymore. Then, we colored in the hexagons with gold (but not too shiny if not at the right angle) face paint and colored black to represent [where the light goes into to get to the instruments].

Mirror Face

Mirror Face

Mirror Face

Mirror Face

Here is a picture of the complete costume with my brother, the Ariane-5, the rocket that is going to launch JWST.
Oren and his brother

Momentum Flap, Solar Array, and Antenna!

For Trick-or-Treating, I would say it was a big hit! A lot of people asked me what it was, and in fact, some called their friends or relatives to come out and see me. There was one guy who even knew what the JWST was!

A big thank you to Maggie Masetti at NASA Goddard who gave us the most inspiration and also spent a lot of time touring us around and teaching me about JWST!

[All images credit: Nina and Oren Cohen]

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.

NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration