James Webb Space Telescope full-size model to be displayed by Space Foundation

Artist's illustration showing a model of the James Webb Space Telescope on display in a museum, with people walking around it.
Artist's rendering of Northrop Grumman's full-size model of the James Webb Space Telescope on display at the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs. (Image credit: Space Foundation)

To see the word's premier astronomical observatory in its full-size glory, you need to go to Lagrange Point 2, a location in deep space on the opposite side of Earth from the sun that is farther away than any human has ever traveled.

Or, soon, you can visit Colorado.

Northrop Grumman, NASA's lead contractor for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), has donated the only full-scale mockup of the observatory to the Space Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting space activities, space professionals and education. The three-story-tall model, which has a footprint that's the length of a tennis court, will be on permanent display at the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs.

"The James Webb Space Telescope is a game-changer!" said Heather Pringle, chief executive officer of the Space Foundation, in a statement. "Northrop Grumman's generous gift of this full-scale model to Space Foundation will undoubtedly inspire and educate future generations about the wonders of space exploration."

Related: See amazing images from the James Webb Space Telescope (photos)

The James Webb Space Telescope full-size model at SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas in 2013. (Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

For more than a decade before the Webb was launched in 2021, Northrop Grumman used the mockup to raise the public's awareness of the spacecraft's mission. Among its past exhibitions, the model was displayed at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin, Ireland; outside of the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; at the World Science Festival held at The Battery (formerly Battery Park) in New York City; and at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, among other events and venues.

When on the move, the model required two trucks to ship and up to 12 days to assemble. Built out of aluminum and steel, the mockup weighs 12,000 pounds (5,400 kilograms) and is approximately 80 feet long, 40 feet wide and 40 feet tall (24 by 12 by 12 meters).

"From New York to Paris, this life-size replica of the Webb Telescope inspired communities around the world and, in doing so, invited friends and families to explore the cosmos together to better understand the origins of the universe," said Chris Adams, vice president and general manager for strategic space systems at Northrop Grumman. "[Now] we mark a new chapter for the replica's new home so it may continue to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers."

The Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs has served students and educators since 2012. (Image credit: Space Foundation)

Located at the organization's headquarters since 2012, the Space Foundation Discovery Center is an interactive science center that has reached more than 300,000 people, including students and educators through field trips, scholarships and special workshops. When it reopens this spring after a six-month renovation, the center will host new experiences and exhibits — like the Webb telescope — adding to the more than 1,800 space-related artifacts the center has displayed.

"We are grateful for Northrop Grumman's commitment to advancing space education and thrilled to embark on Webb's education mission, which will enable us to expand our reach and impact even further," said Pringle.

In addition to the model, the Discovery Center will also exhibit a hexagonal-shaped mirror like the 18 that form the Webb's primary focusing surface. On loan to the Space Foundation by Coherent Aerospace and Defense, Inc., the mirror was built to demonstrate the precision polishing and gold coating technology that was specially developed for the telescope.

Coherent is loaning the Space Foundation a demo mirror like one that comprise the Webb's primary mirror. (Image credit: Space Foundation)

The Space Foundation is currently raising $30 million to build a new facility to display the full-scale model and mirror, as well create educational programming supporting their exhibition.

Since returning its first images in July 2022, the James Webb Space Telescope has revealed new aspects of our universe, from the earliest light emanating after the Big Bang to the composition of exoplanets' atmospheres capable of supporting life. Managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the Webb is a collaboration between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.