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NOVA: Ultimate Space Telescope

Primary Mirror Segment Cryogenic Testing
NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham
Primary Mirror Segment Cryogenic Testing. Ernie Wright stands near the James Webb Space Telescope mirrors as they sit just outside the testing chamber in the Xray calibration facility at MSFC.

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV / Stream now with KPBS Passport!

How did NASA engineers build and launch the most ambitious telescope of all time? Follow the dramatic story of the James Webb Space Telescope — the most complex machine ever launched into space. If it works, scientists believe that this new eye on the universe will peer deeper back in time and space than ever before to the birth of galaxies, and may even be able to “sniff” the atmospheres of exoplanets as we search for signs of life beyond Earth. But getting it to work is no easy task.

NOVA: What will the James Webb Space Telescope do?

The telescope is far bigger than its predecessor, the famous Hubble Space Telescope, and it needs to make its observations a million miles away from Earth — so there will be no chance to go out and fix it. That means there’s no room for error; the most ambitious telescope ever built needs to work perfectly.


Meet the engineers making it happen and join them on their high stakes journey to uncover new secrets of the universe on NOVA "Ultimate Space Telescope."

NOVA: Ultimate Space Telescope: Preview


The James Webb Space Telescope team prepares for launch
10 spectacular Hubble Space Telescope images

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The film is available to stream with KPBS Passport, a member benefit that unlocks exclusive shows and extra content on the PBS App.



A NOVA production by Terri Randall Productions for GBH in association with ARTE France. Written, Produced, and Directed by Terri Randall. Co-Produced and Edited by Jedd Ehrmann. Executive Producers for NOVA are Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt. NOVA is a production of GBH. Distributed internationally by PBS International.