It’s better to be late than never.
And for the James Webb Space Telescope, the wait has felt like forever though that all came to an end today as the telescope originally thought up in 1996 finally left the Earth’s surface in a triumph for the collaborative partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Taking off on an Ariane5 rocket at 7:20 AM in French Guiana, the ground team reports that they got some of their first data back from the telescope only five minutes after launch, NASA reports.
“The launch of the Webb Space Telescope is a pivotal moment – this is just the beginning for the Webb mission…Now we will watch Webb’s highly anticipated and critical 29 days on the edge. When the spacecraft unfurls in space, Webb will undergo the most difficult and complex deployment sequence ever attempted in space. Once commissioning is complete, we will see awe-inspiring images that will capture our imagination,” said program director at NASA, Gregory L. Robinson.
NASA’s blog post outlining the successful launch also gives us some hint of the massive scope of James Webb’s ambitions; to put it short, the telescope aims to “explore every phase of cosmic history.” It will do this using four instruments that will be able to see infrared light emitted from distant objects in a higher resolution. As the scientists behind the project remind the press continuously, however, it isn’t what the team expects to find with Webb that provides the most exciting aspect of the mission, but rather what they will unexpectedly uncover with the telescope’s enhanced capabilities.
If you missed our coverage of the Hubble telescope’s recovery, you can read that story here.
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