Black History: 26-Year-Old Douglas Williams Helps Launch 'The World’s Most Powerful Telescope'
Photo Credit: Northop Grumman
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Black History: 26-Year-Old Douglas Williams Helps Launch 'The World’s Most Powerful Telescope'

What’s being called “the world’s most powerful telescope” was made possible with the help of a Jackson State University alum.

WLBT reports Douglas Williams helped launch the James Webb Space Telescope named after former NASA administrator James E. Webb. The groundbreaking optical instrument caught the attention of the 26-year-old in high school.

“It was all over YouTube, and it was mentioned in a few television documentaries. From that moment, I found myself eager to learn more about the advanced capabilities and engineering going into the first space deployable telescope ever to be sent into space,” said Williams, according to WLBT.

Douglas Williams later attended Northop Grumman for orientation. Here, the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) alum was informed the company was working on building a telescope. The manager informed Williams he could view the telescope from the observation deck, but he had no idea it would be one of science’s most ambitious projects.

“She didn’t mention it was Webb. Out of curiosity, I walked over and opened the door, and, to my surprise, Webb was staring right back at me. I pretty much spent most of my lunches going to the viewing room from then on,” Williams said, according to WLBT.

An engineer’s dream, Douglas Williams was asked to hop on board to work alignments on the James Webb Space Telescope. With no hesitation, Williams worked at Northrop Grumman for three years. During this time, Williams worked alongside a team of over 100 engineers to advance the James Webb Space Telescope’s test and on-earth mechanical deployment procedures, utilize metrology to keep deployments for internal stresses, or in the case of an earthquake, and align the telescope’s high-gain antenna used to send and receive signals to and from Earth.

“Being one of the new members on the team, I appreciated getting to learn on such an impactful project,” Douglas Williams said, the outlet reports.

The James Webb Space Telescope

Vox reports, “The Webb was originally supposed to launch in 2010 and cost around $1 billion. Its price tag ballooned to $10 billion, and it’s way overdue. But the wait will be worth it, at least according to the scientists who expect new and revealing glimpses of our universe.”

The James Webb Space Telescope will have the power to see 13.5 billion years into the past, which has never been done by an optical instrument. The telescope also detects infrared light. Therefore, for the first time, mankind will have a chance to see some of the first stars and galaxies to form in the Universe. Williams notes the project will “rewrite our science textbooks,” according to WLBT.