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Lexington woman who worked on Hubble excited for new space telescope

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 23:24:34-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As NASA unveiled the first images from the new James Webb Space Telescope, a Lexington woman watched with special interest.

"It's a big deal, like I said, I don't really have good words to explain what a big step this is," said Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Kentucky.

She's been watching the mission closely.

"Ever since the launch on Christmas Day, everyone has been so excited," she said.

Smith knows what it's like to have a hand in a brand new space telescope sending in stunning images. She worked on the aiming system for the Hubble Space Telescope before it first launched more than 30 years ago.

"Of course, I was thinking back today about how excited I was when the Hubble launched and then when we were able to see the first stunning images of that," she said.

With the Hubble came all kinds of discoveries and amazing imagery. Smith says she expects the Webb Telescope will help answer a lot of questions about the universe but also provoke so many more.

"I think there'll be a lot of questions that will be answered that they don't even know what the questions are yet," Smith said. "They're just giddy with what they can look at and ask about and think about for the next 20 years."

People in the industry hope breathtaking images like this can also inspire a new generation of interstellar explorers. Dr. Smith says any kids who've had their imaginations captured by Webb have good options here in Lexington.

"There are so many opportunities at the Living Arts and Science Center here in Lexington. It has great programs, and there are other programs and schools and the university - engineering day and the science day, they have a lot of things like that. Just take advantage of any of those opportunities you can and follow your heart," Smith said.