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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched on the daring mission of seeing the first stars

The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope launched a rocket on Saturday on a daunting mission to see the light from the first stars and galaxies and probe the universe for clues. hints about life.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope lifted off from French Guiana on the northeastern coast of South America, riding Europe’s Ariane rocket into the Christmas morning sky.

The $10 billion observatory headed straight for its destination 1 million miles (1.6 million km), or four times farther than the moon. It will take a month to get there and another five months before its infrared eye is ready to begin scanning the universe.

First, the giant mirror and the telescope’s visor need to be opened; they are folded origami style to fit the flaming arrow cone. Otherwise, the observatory would not be able to go back in time 13.7 billion years as predicted, within just 100 million years since the Big Bang formed the universe.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has called Webb a time machine that will provide “a better understanding of our universe and our place in it: who we are, what we are, find eternal sword.”

“We’re going to discover incredible things we never imagined,” Nelson said after takeoff, speaking from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. But he cautions: “There are still loads of things that have to work and they have to work perfectly … we know that big rewards come great risks.”

Intended as the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope, the long-delayed James Webb was named after a NASA administrator in the 1960s. NASA has partnered with European space agencies Europe and Canada to build and launch the new 7-ton telescope, with thousands of people from 29 countries working on it since the 1990s.

With the launch falling around Christmas and the global increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, there were fewer spectators at the French Guiana launch pad than expected. Nelson bowed along with a congressional delegation and several contractors working on the telescope.

Around the world, astronomers have been eagerly waiting to see Webb finally take off after years of failure. Last-minute technical glitches kept the launch for almost a week, then strong winds pushed it through to Christmas. Some starters wore Santa hats to celebrate.

European Space Agency director general Josef Aschbacher said: “We sent a Christmas present today to humanity. He described it as a special moment, but added: “It was very stressful. I couldn’t come out every day. This wouldn’t be good for my longevity.”

Cheers and applause broke out in and out of Launch Control after Webb’s flawless debut, with scientists gleefully embracing each other amid shouts of “Go Webb!” and signs that read: “Bon Voyage Webb.” The cameras on the rocket’s upper stage provide one last look at the shimmering telescope, before it takes off.

Telescope on display: a gilded mirror more than 21 feet (6.5 meters) wide.

Protecting the observatory is a fragile, five-layer sunshade that is vital to keeping the light-collecting mirrors and heat-sensing infrared probes at sub-temperature. At 70 feet by 46 feet (21 meters by 14 meters), it is about the size of a tennis court.

If all goes well, the sunshade will be opened three days after takeoff, taking at least five days to unfold and lock into place. Next, the mirror segments will unfold like the leaves of a teardrop-shaped table, for 12 days or so in flight.

All in all, hundreds of release mechanisms need to work – perfectly – for the telescope to succeed. “It’s like nothing has been done before,” said NASA program director Greg Robinson.

Retired astrophysicist Steven Hawley is more stressed about Webb than Hubble, which he launched into orbit from the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. That’s because Webb would be too far away to rescue, which needed when Hubble had blurred vision from a faulty mirror.

Astronauts’ spacewalking repairs have turned Hubble into a beloved wonder that has revolutionized humanity’s understanding of the universe, capturing its gaze 13.4 billion years ago. five. Webb has now moved closer to the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, its more visible in infrared and Hubble’s further in the shorter visible and ultraviolet wavelengths.

NASA is recording a 10-year operating life from Webb. Engineers deliberately left the fuel tank accessible for launch by visiting the spacecraft, if and when such technology became available.

When he released Hubble, “I never believed it would be still going strong nearly 32 years later,” Hawley, now a professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, said in an email. “I hope that in 32 years, we will be able to say that JWST did too.”

Copyright © 2021 by Associated Press. Copyright Registered.

https://abc13.com/nasa-james-webb-space-telescope-launch/11385425/ NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched on the daring mission of seeing the first stars

Dais Johnston

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