Begoña Vila: ‘Working at James Webb has been 15 years of living on the edge’
the Astrophysicist Begoña Vila carry fifteen years I worked in James Webb Space TelescopeReleased last Christmas. A time lived “to the fullest” in every moment, both in the complications that appeared along the way, and in the joys. Villa (Vigo, 1963), Senior Systems Engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center Of the US space agency, he was also responsible for directing the live broadcast and NASA’s Spanish-language program during the launch of the largest and most advanced telescope ever sent into space.
James Webb It travels to its final location, Langrange Point 2, 1.5 million km from Earth, carried out the complex deployment process (given its size, it had to be folded into an Ariane 5 missile), but its mirrors and instruments still need to be calibrated and fine-tuned.
It was the period from launch to reaching its final destination, the time when the most important operations were carried out baptized by NASA Like “29 days to max”, an expression that Villa knows very well what it means. These years, “from the start, have been to the fullest at all times,” he says in a virtual interview with Efe. There have been “tough times, things not going as you first expect” and you have to “think differently”, even sleepless nights. When you face these challenges, it’s “always tough moments”, but it’s also “it energizes you, looking for the cause and how to solve it.”
Even if “You also have very happy moments. Everyone’s satisfaction When you face a challenge and know that you have succeeded, that is also a defining moment on the other end.” And now Villa points out that they are living.”Very happy moments”, once the telescope was already revealed. An operation that involved critical moments, such as parachute deployment, which if something went wrong could mean a mission loss.
“As we move forward, we have more plans,” if something isn’t done right, there are ways to make it work, “although it is not perfect, although we hope it is.”
the Engineer starting work at James Webb in Canada, partner with NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) In this telescope, which will later be signed by the US Agency. I have been involved with the project for fifteen years, half the time it took to design, build and launch it.
James Webb took off into space from French Guiana on Christmas Day, What a “good gift” for everyone. A moment I told her in Spanish on NASA’s Internet Channel. “I was so proud and so happy that they thought of me,” she recalls. For Villa, it was «VERY SPECIAL ‘Take charge of this programEspecially since his mother and brothers are in Spain and his children are in Canada. “I know they were watching it and it was, for a bit, sharing Christmas with them.”
Once the telescope is in space, work continues and Villa is on the commission’s team, which is responsible for following through on a six-month process of getting its four instruments to work, verifying that they are up and running and that they are ready. at that time, “We know that we will face challenges that will occupy us very much.” In addition, he will take care of the guidance device, which keeps the observatory still, says Villa, who will be one of those responsible for the room in which these operations are carried out, “It’s as if you were to take the picture, which makes you not move the camera on you.”
Six months later, the first observations will be made with all the instruments, and “they will show what (James Webb) can do,” explains the NASA engineer, who considers that “They will be wonderful.”
everyone Waiting for those first pictures And although “we may have an idea of what those galaxies, those planets and stars are going to be like, I think we don’t. For me it will be Exciting, like some of the images we got from the Hubble telescope, which were amazing.”
In addition, he considers that they will find “unexpected” things, because “every time you look at something different you have some surprise and this helps us realize that we don’t know as much as we think we know.”
James Webb will be cAble to look back in timeUntil the time of the formation of the first galaxies, you will also be able to discover new exoplanets and determine their chemical composition. “For me, it is very interesting to know the answers.”
The journey from his home country of Vigo was a long one, as it passed a physics degree and an astronomy major in between Santiago de Compostela and Tenerife, from there to England to a private company until he arrived first in Canada and then in the United States with James Webb. “I worked hard and still do, move forward, look for opportunities,” because “you shouldn’t be afraid to change when the opportunity presents itself” and you should “always do your best.”
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