The first image sent by the James Webb Space Telescope shows...

The first image sent by the James Webb Space Telescope shows the deepest view of the cosmos. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Robyn Beck

If it wasn’t for a guidance counselor at Bayport-Blue Point High School, Ray Lundquist might not have worked on the most powerful telescope ever sent into space.

Lundquist, who graduated from the high school in 1978, played a key role in developing the cameras aboard NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope.

President Joe Biden on Monday revealed the first image from the new space telescope — the deepest view of the cosmos ever captured.

“I’m really excited about seeing the pictures,” said Lundquist, 61, “It’s a long time in the making getting there.”

The first image showed the furthest humanity has ever seen in time, and the farthest in distance, closer to the dawn of the universe and the edge of the cosmos. That image will be followed Tuesday by the release of four more galactic beauty shots from the telescope’s initial outward gazes.

Those images should include a view of a giant gaseous planet outside our solar system, two images of a nebula where stars are born and die in spectacular beauty, and an update of a classic image of five tightly clustered galaxies that dance around each other.

Lundquist said the telescope is an amazing piece of scientific work, and should provide images that make those from the Hubble Space Telescope seem almost quaint.

Ray Lundquist, a top manager on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope...

Ray Lundquist, a top manager on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope program and a Long Island native, played a key role in developing the cameras aboard the $10 billion telescope. Credit: Kashani Dasgupta

“It’s going to be ten or even a hundred times better than Hubble,” he said, noting that the mirror on Webb is at least seven times larger than Hubble's.

Webb “will allow us to peer back even further in time than Hubble does, so we can see the early galaxy formation near the edge of the universe,” said Lundquist, who also worked on Hubble.

Lundquist was a math wizard at Bayport-Blue Point High School, and planned to make it his major in college, he recalled on Monday. But the guidance counselor suggested he pursue electrical engineering.

He did, enrolling at Northeastern University in Boston.

In this 2017 NASA photo, technicians lift the mirror of the James...

In this 2017 NASA photo, technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: AP/Laura Betz

Lundquist got a job at NASA straight out of college, and by 2002 was assigned to work on the Webb project. He headed the team that developed the cameras.

The world’s biggest and most powerful space telescope rocketed away last December from French Guiana in South America. It reached its lookout point 1 million miles from Earth in January.

Then the lengthy process began to align the mirrors, get the infrared detectors cold enough to operate and calibrate the science instruments, all protected by a sunshade the size of a tennis court to keep the telescope cool.

The plan is to use the telescope to peer back so far that scientists will get a glimpse of the early days of the universe about 13.7 billion years ago and zoom in on closer cosmic objects, even our own solar system, with sharper focus.

Webb is considered the successor to the highly successful, but aging Hubble. Hubble has stared as far back as 13.4 billion years. It found the lightwave signature of an extremely bright galaxy in 2016. Astronomers measure how far back they look in light-years with one light-year being 5.8 trillion miles.

“Webb can see backwards in time to just after the Big Bang by looking for galaxies that are so far away that the light has taken many billions of years to get from those galaxies to our telescopes,” said Jonathan Gardner, Webb’s deputy project scientist, in a recent media briefing.

Lundquist ended his work on the Webb telescope in 2016 — two years before its originally scheduled launch — and now works at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on a project involving the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket and Orion spacecraft.

SLS is the most powerful rocket NASA says it has ever built. It will transport Orion, which is supposed to take humans farther into space than they have ever traveled, including, eventually, to Mars. The SLS launch is expected in late August.

The work is a long way from Lundquist’s childhood on Long Island. He recalled how he was a newspaper delivery boy in Northport, where his family first lived. Later, after they moved to Bayport, he worked at a boatyard in Patchogue that his father owned.

His father repaired and built boats, and Lundquist believes working there may have helped his future career.

“I think that in some ways boat building definitely helps you in the engineering — understanding certain aspects of just getting a design built and done,” he said.

Of course, like most children on Long Island in the late 1960s, he was fascinated by the Apollo project, and stayed up late to watch the first man walk on the moon.

“I was really excited about it,” Lundquist said. “It definitely steered me toward that” type of work.

He gets back occasionally to Long Island, though this week he is missing an extended family camping trip to Hither Hills State Park in Montauk.

Instead, on Tuesday, he will be at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for a special NASA showing of some of the first images from the Webb telescope.

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