You can see life, the universe and everything else expanding Trevor Noah’s horizons as he learns about NASA’s latest deep space telescope in front of a live audience.
The comedian met with Gregory Robinson, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope, on Tuesday (July 19) during Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” Noah said he’s still trying to catch up with the release of mind-blowing images of Webb’s operational work a few days ago, showing everything from distant galaxies to a “cliff” of dust and gas.
“We are seeing something 13 billion years ago,” Noah said of the new images, shaking his head in disbelief. “Sorry, that? What does that even mean?
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“Well, sometimes I also say what,” admitted Robinson, who has been with NASA almost continuously since 1989. ). According to him, the events that Webb captures “are only now reaching us. It is a journey of light through time and distance.”
Noah, who tried to manipulate time travel like Doctor Strange, immediately jumped at some interesting conclusions. “What do we use this information for? Will she tell us that the aliens have left [for Earth] and already here? Does this tell us where we will go after we destroy the Earth?
Robinson said Webb’s mission is to answer some basic questions in astronomy that scientists know surprisingly little about. “Where did we come from? How do we fit into this universe? Are we alone is another question we are looking for.
The conversation also touched on Robinson’s own history, which began decades ago in rural Virginia, where his parents were sharecroppers. As one of their 11 children, he grew up amid black segregation during the Jim Crow era (which you can see in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, based on the best-selling book, about black female NASA engineers).
Noah added that despite these obstacles, NASA called Robinson in 2018 when Webb was well behind schedule and over budget. “That didn’t work,” Noah said, “and yet they called you. They said, “We need you to do it,” and you did it.”
Robinson credits the teachers at his segregated school with sowing the seeds of his success, saying they were often highly qualified, even though it was difficult for blacks to find work in the industry at the time. “They raised us. They took care of us. So my beginnings were very strong.”
Regarding Webb’s difficult journey, Robinson added that much of the hard work had been done before he was assigned to take office 4.5 years ago. Together with NASA, industrial and international partners helped Webb launch flawlessly on December 25, 2021 and accompanied it through a six-month commissioning period.
“This team is an incredibly, incredibly smart team. There is never a shortage of skill at NASA, and certainly not on this team,” Robinson said.
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