The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in charge of the United States’ science and technology division that deals with aircraft and space. The organization has been home to several influential men and women like Carl Sagan, but have you heard of James Webb and his contributions to the program?
James Webb ran NASA in the 1960s and pushed for a balance between science and space flight. In 1965, he wrote that a major space telescope should be pursued, which gave rise to the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Early Life of James Webb
James Edwin Webb was born on October 7, 1906, in Granville County, North Carolina. He completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina in 1928. He became a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and served as a pilot on active duty from 1930 to 1932.
He then studied law at the George Washington University Law School, where he received his Juris Doctor degree in 1936. In the same year, he was admitted to the Bar of the District of Columbia.
In 1938, Webb married Patsy Aiken Douglas and had two children. (Source: James Webb Space Telescope)
What Was James Webb’s Contribution to NASA?
James Webb believed that NASA needed to create a balance between space flight and science to maximize the potential of the aerospace industry. The ideal combination of the two fields would serve as a catalyst for strengthening any program NASA started.
While many believe that James Webb only ran the space agency from 1961 to 1968, he did more for the science aspect of the program before any other government official. This makes it only fitting that the Next Generation Space Telescope be named after him.
Although President John F. Kennedy was completely committed to the moon landing project before the decade ended, Webb’s initiative was more than just a political race. He was highly adamant about finding the middle ground between human space flight and its science. It would serve as a catalyst in strengthening the United State’s aerospace industry.
And so far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to run a program that’s just a one-shot program. If you want me to be the administrator, it’s going to be a balanced program that does the job for the country.James Webb
(Source: James Webb Space Telescope)
What Was Webb’s Vision?
Webb’s vision resulted from a decade of space science research that is still unparalleled today. During his tenure at NASA, the organization invested in developing the robotic spacecraft, which eventually explored the moon unmanned so that astronauts could conduct explorations later. The identical probes were sent to Mars and Venus, giving Americans the first view of planets that had never been explored.
By 1965, Webb wrote about a major space telescope and how NASA should make it a significant project. It was then known as the Large Space Telescope. When Webb retired, just a few months before the moon landing on July 1969, NASA had launched about 75 space science missions to study stars and galaxies. (Source: James Webb Space Telescope)