JWST: from First Photons to First Science
After decades of development by a globe-spanning international team, JWST is now providing an unprecedented view of the cosmos. In this talk I will describe our experience thus far operating this new great observatory: from mission design history and development, to prelaunch preparations, to launch and commissioning, and now into the first of many years of mission operations at the Earth-Sun L2 point. I will provide a first-hand look at the processes and teamwork we used to deploy the observatory and align its segmented mirror system, and discuss some of the surprises (both challenges and good news) encountered during commissioning. Even early during telescope commissioning, this observatory’s tremendous power and sensitivity were already apparent with spectacular images and spectra. Now during science operations, we continue to learn more about observatory hardware performance; this is still early days in our adventure with JWST. I will close with a look at (a small fraction of) some of the early science results with JWST, with particular attention to our early observations of nearby exoplanetary systems.