Lehigh electrical engineering alum to discuss his role in launching the James Webb Space Telescope

Scott Willoughby '89 is the vice president and program manager at Northrop Grumman for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful space telescope ever sent into space. In his role, he oversees all aspects of the flagship program, to include the design, build, and total system integration. Willoughby has over 30 years of experience in aerospace and received a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in electrical engineering from Lehigh University.

On Wednesday, August 10, from 12:15 to 1pm Eastern time, he will be hosting a "Mountain Talk" for members of the Lehigh University community. The event is virtual (Zoom); for more or to register, please visit alumni.lehigh.edu/mountain-talks.

In this talk, Willoughby will discuss the complex engineering and technological advances that power the world's first space deployable telescope and the incredible engineering team enabling a new era in space.

Willoughby has spent the last 12 years leading the team that systematically solved some of the most complex engineering problems ever encountered: they had to build a telescope with mirrors big enough to catch the light emitted from stars more than 13 billion years ago; the instrument had to operate at -400 degrees Fahrenheit to see infrared light; and it all had to be folded up like origami, tucked into a rocket, then overcome nearly 300 points of failure to unfold properly in space.

"Never in the history of humankind has an invention had to go into space, and have to get built up as it traveled," says Willoughby. "It was amazing how flawless that went. But it took us 20 years to make that work."