This is the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's new infrared peeping Tom and part of the effort to replace Hubble. It looks like an Imperial Star Destroyer and it seems just as big. OK, maybe it's not Enterprise-fire-your-transphasic-torpedoes huge, but as you can see in this impressive actual-scale model, it is giganormous: At 80ft (24m) long and 40ft (12m or three stories) high, the JWST is big enough to make you wonder how are they going to put this in space in one piece.
The answer is origami. Everything, from the thermal shield to its 21.3 feet diameter hexagonal mirror, is tightly packed to fit in its launcher. And you won't have to go 930,000 miles from Earth to see it automagically unfold, because we've got the video right after the jump.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be equipped with a near-infrared camera, a near-IR multi-object spectrograph, a mid-IR instrument, and a tunable filter imager, to show images of the very beginning of the Universe. NASA is also looking into the "formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth," probably just in case one day the Cylons attack and we all have to do like a hockey player and get the puck out of here.
From its folding, segmented primary mirror and ultra-lightweight beryllium optics to detectors that can pick the weakest signals or microshutters to select specific objects for study, the JWST is using new technologies that hopefully will also affect us beyond answering some of those pesky science and philosophical questions, like "where do we come from?" "where are we going to?" and "shaken or stirred?"
The only disappointing thing is that at $4.5 billion it won't come with a single USB port.