Telescope Innovations Improve Speed, Accuracy of Eye SurgeryOne of the main components of NASA's vision for the future of space exploration will actually have a keen eye for the past. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled to launch in 2018, will have spectacular sight, after it reaches orbit, one of its main goals is to observe the first galaxies that formed in the early universe. "JWST offers new capabilities in the infrared well beyond what we can see from current telescopes, either on the ground or in space. It will let us explore the early universe, extrasolar planets, and really, all branches of astrophysics," says Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for the JWST at Goddard Space Flight Center. Building such a keen space telescope is an astronomic task. Because JWST will gaze over such incredible distances, it requires very large mirrors. In fact, the primary mirror will be more than two stories in diameter and consists of 18 separate segments. Each segment must be perfectly smooth, flat, and scratch-free in order to deliver a view 13 billion light years away. Construction of the 18 mirror segments involved measuring, grinding, polishing, and testing - and more measuring, grinding, polishing, and testing - and more measuring, grinding, polishing, and testing (you get the idea). One of the most time consuming steps of the mirror development process, the grinding phase, can take years.