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Local Harris Workers Involved In Space Telescope Project

As NASA continues work on the next-generation space telescope, some local engineers and other workers at Harris Corporation are keeping a close eye on its progress.

The reason for the interest is that some of the people who have worked on the James Webb Space Telescope at Harris are based in Rochester.

Gary Matthews is Director of Universe Exploration, at Harris’ Space & Intelligence Systems division. He  had spent many years working for the company in Rochester, now he's based in Maryland. 

Harris is getting ready to finish some major work on the $8 billion project, and Matthews says the telescope's mirrors are a big part of that.

“When we put these mirrors in for example, we align them to something around 100 microns. 100 microns is the thickness of a piece of paper.”

Matthews says the telescope, which is a successor to the Hubble space telescope, will help scientists learn more about the history of the universe.

“This very large telescope, looking essentially very far away to gather that light that was created back 13 billion years ago, so it will definitely expand our knowledge of the universe in really understanding the early formation of the stars we see today.”

Matthews says working on the Webb telescope is a big point of pride for Harris workers.

“The teams know they’re really working on something special here; we’re going to re-write physics books, we’re going to learn things that we didn’t even know existed yet, so there is a lot of pride and you can tell that in just their mood. We worked through the holidays, two shifts, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.”

 The telescope expected to be launched into space in 2018.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.