- The world’s largest and powerful space telescope rocketed away on a high-stakes quest to behold light from the first stars, galaxies and scour the universe for hints of life.
- NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope soared from Guiana on South America’s northeastern coast.
The world’s largest and powerful space telescope rocketed away on Saturday on a high-stakes quest to behold light from the first stars, galaxies and scour the universe for hints of life.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope soared from Guiana on South America’s northeastern coast, riding a European Ariane rocket in the Christmas morning sky.
The $10 billion observatories hurtled toward its destination 1 million miles away or more than four times beyond the moon. It would take a month to get there and another five months before its infrared eyes are ready to start scanning the cosmos.
First, the telescope’s enormous mirror and sun-shield need to unfurl; they were folded origami-style to fit in the rocket’s nose cone. Otherwise, the observatory will not be able to peer back in 13.7 billion years as anticipated, within 100 million years of the universe-forming Big Bang.
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“It is going to give us a better understanding of our universe and our place in it: who we are, what we are, the search that is eternal,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated this week.
But he warned: “When you want a big reward, you will have to take a big risk usually.”
Intended as a successor to the old Hubble Space Telescope, the long-delayed James Webb has been named after NASA’s administrator during the 1960s. NASA partnered with the European and Canadian space agencies to launch the 7-ton telescope, with thousands of people from 29 countries working on it since the 1990s.
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