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Kenneth Sembach

Letter from the Director

Dr. Ken Sembach celebrates Webb’s launch and commissioning, Hubble’s resilience and Roman’s milestones, and recognizes how important it is to continue to support our staff and the astronomical community.

This year was a long time coming, yet it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. We were busy throughout as our teams worked together to expand the frontiers of space astronomy in multiple dimensions. Our plans for serving the community and bringing the universe down to Earth had to be reshuffled a bit due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but our staff met these challenges head on. We helped Hubble overcome a series of operational challenges so that it could continue its tradition of astronomical discovery, designed powerful new science platforms and tools for future research with the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, made final pre-flight preparations for the James Webb Space Telescope, and eagerly awaited launch with the rest of the world.

What a wonderful sight it was to see Webb soar into the sky on December 25! We said goodbye to the telescope on the ground, and sent it into space knowing that it will forever change the way we view the universe and our place within it. Although it was not possible to share the launch day experience in person with many of our colleagues as originally planned, it was a special day here at the institute for all of us nonetheless.

Working at STScI alongside our partners, the commissioning plan is proceeding splendidly. Our flight engineers at the helm of Webb's Mission Operations Center are commanding and controlling the telescope, while our scientists and technical staff are aligning the telescope and preparing to commission the science instruments for first light in early summer. We are proud to be associated with the thousands of talented, dedicated individuals whose efforts led to the development, construction, and operation of this remarkable observatory.

Our commitments to excellent service and scientific discovery remain as strong as ever. The year ahead is a busy one for all of the missions we support, and it won't be long before Hubble and Webb are operating contemporaneously. While most of our staff continue to work from home, we are busily preparing a hybrid workplace that provides flexibility to be productive, effective, and collaborative no matter when or where they work.

We will soon be welcoming more staff and visitors back onsite in early 2022 and look forward to the collegial interactions that are such an essential part of our culture. Hope to see you in the near future!