Former NASA engineer Michael Kaplan (Courtesy; NASA) (Courtesy; NASA)
Michael Kaplan


“This just further confirms my deeply held belief that the universe is a beautiful, amazing thing,” says Michael Kaplan.

By Pesach Benson, United with Israel

Who hasn’t been awed by the images of space taken by NASA’s James Webb Telescope?

There’s a stunning beauty to the photos of dancing galaxies, nebulae, and — relatively closer to home — Jupiter and asteroids.

And there’s an American-Israeli engineer, Michael Kaplan, who played a big part in the telescope’s development.

“Why wouldn’t we expect that the universe that God created be a beautiful Universe, right? I mean, in a sense it’s just as I expected,” Kaplan told the Jewish Chronicle from his home in Boulder, Colorado.

“As old as humans are, humans have looked up at the stars and wondered. It’s one of the oldest sciences, and we’ve always thought and wondered, ‘What’s up there? What are we looking at?’ I’m still a little bit in awe over the pictures I saw earlier today.”

The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest optical telescope in space. It took 20 years to build, and by the time it was launched in December, it cost $10 billion.

Thanks to advances in science, the Webb Telescope can see more things and at greater distances than the Hubble Space Telescope which was launched in 1990.

“God created the universe and God created us. He blessed us with the intellect and the curiosity to want to explore the universe and he gave us the intellectual capacity to be able to design and build such amazing instruments as James Webb and as the Mars Rovers and all the other amazing tools that we have to explore the universe,” Kaplan told the JC.

Kaplan made aliyah and lived in Israel for five years before moving back to the U.S. During his time in Israel, Kaplan consulted for SpaceIL ahead of its unsuccessful attempt in 2019 to land the Beresheet lunar craft on the moon.

The former NASA engineer is currently vice president of LeoStella, a U.S. satellite manufacturing company. He was part of the team that first began developing the Webb telescope more than 25 years ago.

“We knew Webb was going to be able to get extraordinary information and images. But until you actually see it, you can’t imagine it,” Kaplan told the JC.

“This just further confirms my deeply held belief that the universe is a beautiful, amazing thing. And the pictures that we got from James Webb are more powerful or more beautiful than any human artists could possibly imagine.”

But he insists that the initial images released by NASA are only a small taste of what Webb is capable of.

“The pictures that were released are our early releases. It’s a gross understatement to say the best is yet to come. I mean, it’s really just so remarkable.”