NASA and the James Webb Space Telescope industry team, led by Northrop Grumman Corporation, have won the prestigious National Aeronautic Association (NAA) Robert J. Collier Trophy for revolutionizing the field of astrophysics with the team’s pioneering design and exceptional performance of the telescope. The Collier Trophy is awarded annually for “the greatest achievement in aerospace and astronautics in America.” The award will be presented at the NAA Gala in Washington, D.C., on June 15.
“The James Webb Space Telescope is nothing short of a scientific feat, and is a shining example of what NASA can accomplish when we push the boundaries of space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “From discovering some of the earliest galaxies ever observed to delivering a more detailed view of exoplanet atmospheres than ever before, it’s all due to the hard work and dedication of the exceptional Webb team. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor!”
“This award is for the 20,000 people who for over 20 years gave their heart and soul into every detail to make sure Webb would be an incredible success, and it’s really only getting started,” said Lee Feinberg, Webb telescope manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Goddard was the lead NASA center for the project for over two decades.
The NAA has bestowed the Robert J. Collier Trophy on the team behind NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, acknowledging the telescope’s place in aerospace history as it nears its one-year anniversary of operations later this year. Webb is the world's first space deployable telescope.
Established more than a century ago, the award has marked major achievements in the timeline of flight, including Orville Wright in 1913 for developing the automatic stabilizer; Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager for his sound-barrier-breaking 1947 flight of the X-1 rocket plane; the crews of NASA’s Apollo 8, 11, and 15 for their missions to the Moon in the late 1960s and early ’70s; and NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
Northrop Grumman led the design, build, and total system integration, and prepared the observatory for launch. Other industry partners for the Webb team include Ball Aerospace, L3Harris, NeXolve, and Raytheon.
The Collier Trophy recognizes the Webb team for activities in 2022, where over the course of two weeks after its historic launch, Webb unfolded its sunshield and mirrors during a series of complex deployments and maneuvers, the first of its kind ever attempted in space. After achieving its final configuration, the team made a series of adjustments to bring the telescope’s optics into precise alignment. The team then tested Webb’s state-of-the-art scientific instruments and brought them to operational temperature, all necessary to begin Webb’s science mission.
To enable the observatory’s ambitious scientific mission, Webb incorporates innovative design, advanced technology, and groundbreaking engineering. Ten technological inventions were created to build the advanced telescope, including revolutionary optics, detectors, thermal control systems, a deployable sunshield, cryocooler technologies, and the manufacturing of a lightweight composite backplane to carry the weight of Webb’s mirror, telescope optics, and scientific instruments.
The Collier Trophy adds to a list of recent awards received by NASA’s Webb team, including those from Popular Science, the Project Management Institute, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Bloomberg 50, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, the 2023 John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., Award for Space Exploration, and a top Honor in Space for Fast Company’s Most Innovative List.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world's premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).