RASC Regular Meeting, September 11, 2023

The James Webb Space Telescope: Some Key Moments in its History

Guest Speaker: Robert Smith

RASC Regular Meeting, Monday September 11, 2023

Zeidler Dome, TELUS World of Science Edmonton, 11211 142 St NW Edmonton

7:00 PM (MDT), Meet and Greet

7:30 PM (MDT), Robert Smith – James Webb Space Telescope

After the Break: Warren Finlay – The Herschel 2500, Astro-Imaging Corner and more!


FREE and open to the public.

This is a hybrid meeting. You may attend in person, or join remotely using Zoom.

Zoom link 

The James Webb Space Telescope: Some Key Moments in its History

Robert Smith, Department of History, University of Alberta


James Webb Space Telescope on Cosmic Cliffs background.

JWST—a joint enterprise of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency—is the most complex and in some ways the most powerful telescope ever built. Its history–which includes a near-death experience at the hands of a U.S. congressional committee in 2011 when there was an effort to kill the project–raises a range of important issues, as well as lessons for the future of space astronomy. In this talk, Dr. Robert W. Smith will discuss several key moments in JWST’s history, some of the early science results, and what telescopes might follow JWST. 




Robert Smith

Robert Smith’s main scholarly interests are in the history of science and technology from the late eighteenth century to today. He has particular interests in the history of astronomy and the history of spaceflight. At present, he is, among other projects, following closely the development of the $10 Billion James Webb Space Telescope. Robert Smith was awarded his PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge in 1979. He joined the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta in 1998. Before that, he was Chair of the Space History Department of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Musem in Washington DC.He has been the Lindberg Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution and a Fellow of the National Humanities Centre, as well as a McCalla Professor and Killam Annual Professor at the University of Alberta.


Warren Finlay: The Herschel 2500

Sir William Herschel, with the help of his sister Caroline, discovered 2500 deep sky objects more than 200 years ago. Since then, only a few astronomers have followed in Herschel’s footsteps and observed the full list of discovered objects. Warren Finlay will discuss what it takes and give some tips to complete the Herschel 2500 list.


** Please note that this meeting may be recorded and posted on youtube. By joining  you agree to becoming part of this recording. **