The James Webb Space Telescope is already making good on its promises. The NASA scientists and engineers behind the $10 billion project promised to astonish with visual depth and its first images give them reason to take a bow. When I look into the image of the Carina nebula where stars are being formed or a spiral galaxy, my untrained eye doesn’t see what the astrophysicists see; I look and am dazzled, only amplified because the experts too are dazzled.
We are not only viewing galactic fireworks millions of light years away, we witness some impressive social engineering in our own backyard, this planet: a superb display of coordination and cooperation between engineers — 20,000 of them — of various ethnicities, nationalities, religions, genders, sexual orientations and races. Most of them are passionate about their work and the images are beginning to validate those passions.
With all the fear-based distrust that seems to permeate our interactions, we can point to scientific marvels like this new telescope and ask how that level of unified effort is made possible. I think of the Large Hadron Collider, a similar marvel.