ESA and NASA have approved a new date for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope – December 18, 2021. Previously, the launch was scheduled for mid-November. The James Webb Space Telescope will be a next-generation orbiting observatory that will conduct observations in the near and mid-infrared wavelengths.
James Webb became the record holder among space telescopes for the duration of the development time. The construction of the telescope began in 1996 and initially, it was supposed to be completed and sent into space back in 2007.
Yet, its assembly was completed only in 2019, and the total cost of the project has increased 20 times – $10 billion. The telescope has already passed a large number of checks, as well as comprehensive tests, including compatibility with the launch vehicle.
In mid-July, NASA announced the completion of three important milestones as part of the final work to prepare the observatory for launch into space.
The engineers conducted a final test on deploying a telescopic support tower that separates the telescope’s main mirror from the sun shields, helping to maintain instrument temperatures and allowing the screens to deploy in space.
After the completion of the tests, the tower was transferred to a flight configuration and the next time it will be deployed in space.
After launching into space, the telescope will begin a four-week flight to the second Lagrange point in the Sun-Earth system, where it will operate. Scientific observations will begin six months after the launch, and the total duration of the telescope’s life is estimated at 5-10 years.
Unlike Hubble, for example, James Webb will be too far from Earth and repairs will not be possible. This means that the chances of it surviving more than 10 years are low.
The telescope will allow us to see the universe as we have never seen it before. It will conduct observations in the infrared range, that is, at different wavelengths than Hubble, it will be able to look farther than Spitzer, and in more areas than Herschel.
It will fill in the gaps and help create a holistic picture of the universe. Extensive infrared observations will help us see nascent stars and planets.
The oldest galaxies will finally become visible to us, and this will help put together the entire cosmological history of the universe.
Some people like to say that telescopes are time machines, which is a very good expression. When we look into space, we see the past because it takes time for light to reach Earth.
We will see the Universe when it was extremely young – and this will help us understand how we came to be and how it all works.
Hopefully, there will be no more delays and we will finally see the telescope in space by the end of this year. James Webb will mark the beginning of a new era of space exploration and we can only wonder about the discoveries it will make.
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• Bartels, M. (2021, September 8). NASA’s James Webb Space TELESCOPE launch delayed to December. Space.com.
• ESA. (n.d.). Targeted launch date for Webb: 18 December 2021.
• Jenner, L. (2021, July 15). James Webb Space Telescope testing progress continues. NASA.
• Margetta, R. (2021, September 8). NASA readies James Webb Space telescope for December Launch. NASA.