Can a football stand up to a space telescope's intense testing regimen? In honor of Sunday's Super Bowl, NASA put a football through tests similar to those undergone by its next big space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope.
Turns out, withstanding those telescope tests is no easy feat. A new NASA video shows the football shattering at cryogenic (very cold) temperatures and squishing down severely under intense pressure. The football held together somewhat better spinning in a centrifuge and shaking during a simulated launch. [NASA Goes to Super Bowl 2017 (Photos)]
The tests were performed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where the Webb is being tested ahead of its launch in 2018. The spaceborne observatory is intended to measure the universe in infrared light, showing heat-emitting processes in the sky. Its mission includes searching for exoplanets and looking for galaxies in the very young universe.
"We'd rather have something break during a test on the ground, where we can understand the problem and fix it, than in space," Christine Nolan Essig, an actor and member of the Webb's outreach team, said in the video.