Local man worked on new NASA space telescope

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 January 2022 at 5:40 pm

‘This thing is going to change what we know about the universe’ – Dirk Climenhaga

Provided photo: Dirk Climenhaga, a library assistant at Hoag Library, has created a display about the James Webb Space Telescope. Climenhaga, a former engineer at Kodak, worked on the space telescope when he was a engineer with Kodak and ITT.

ALBION – It’s been an exciting few weeks for Dirk Climenhaga with the launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Climenhaga, 64, worked on the space telescope when he was an engineer at Kodak and then ITT.

Kodak and then ITT were among numerous subcontractors hired by NASA to work on the space telescope. Climenhaga was on a team at Kodak in 1994 that worked on part of the secondary mirror on the telescope.

“We made sure it was workable,” Climenhaga said.

The space telescope has proven to be workable. It was launched on Christmas. The powerful infrared telescope has a 21.3 foot primary mirror.

The observatory will study every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, NASA said. It will essentially be able to look back in time at the first stars and galaxies, Climenhaga said.

“This thing is going to change what we know about the universe,” he said. “We will see the first stars from the beginning. This is so amazing to show what God has done.”

Climenhaga grew up in Medina and lives in Gaines. His wife Sandy is a biology teacher at Albion.

Climenhaga started working at Kodak in 1978 as an assembler and moved up to be a draftsman and an engineer, retiring in 2008.

Climenhaga has been working since 2013 as a library assistant in Albion at the Hoag Library. He does special programs such as 3D printing, classes for mechanical, architectural and animation. He also shares his vintage train setup and assists people with Rokenbok, educational toys that he said better than Lego.

In his latest project, he has a display up in the library about the James Webb Space Telescope. He welcomes people to stop by and ask questions.

“People in the world will be surprised by unexpected discoveries with this new technology,” he said.

Image credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez – An artist’s conception of the James Webb Space Telescope shows all its major elements fully deployed.