Beyond the Hubble Space Telescope: Early Development of the Next Generation Space Telescope

  • Robert W. Smith
  • W. Patrick McCray
Conference paper
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings book series (ASSSP)


In this paper we investigate the early history of what was at first called the Next Generation Space Telescope, later to be renamed the James Webb Space Telescope. We argue that the initial ideas for such a Next Generation Space Telescope were developed in the context of the planning for a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Much the most important group of astronomers and engineers examining such a successor was based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. By the late 1980s, they had fashioned concepts for a successor that would work in optical, ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, concepts that would later be regarded as politically unrealistic given the costs associated with them. We also explore how the fortunes of the planned Next Generation Space Telescope were intimately linked to that of its “parent,” the Hubble Space Telescope.


European Space Agency Space Shuttle Hubble Space Telescope Spherical Aberration Primary Mirror 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Smith
    • 1
  • W. Patrick McCray
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of History and ClassicsUniversity of Alberta, Edmonton, AlbertaCanada
  2. 2.Department of HistoryUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraUSA

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