The James Webb space telescope successfully launched into the vastness of space Christmas day this year. This journey was long in the making, beginning back in 1996 when the telescope was first conceived by NASA. The shuttle transporting Webb took off at 12:20am UTC in French Ghana and the telescope is now on its way to becoming the successor to the Hubble. The initial live stream on YouTube ran for 2 hours and 17 minutes, allowing people around the globe to watch the journey unfold in real time. Webb will travel 100 million miles into orbit, taking approximately 29 days to reach its intended target, but will not be officially declared fully operational until approximately 180 days after the launch. Multiple attempts to launch have happened in the last few years, but with equipment delays, storms, and the ongoing pandemic, it was postponed several times. But all that waiting has finally paid off and the telescope is now on its way into orbit. The next step, which will take over six months, will be gradually unfolding the telescope’s massive mirrors, which are each the size of several football fields. Following that is aligning the mirrors and cooling them to an immensely cold -380°F.
Lenox Laser was directly involved in manufacturing components for the Webb, providing precise alignment targets for the infrared imaging system to assist with the readings it takes while scanning for the innermost secrets of our universe. You can read about other NASA projects we have been involved in on our blog. It has been an immense honor for us to be part of such an important scientific endeavor. The telescope is 100 times more powerful than Hubble and is expected to take on the task of filling in missing pieces of the Big Bang mystery that have eluded scientists for many years.
Webb marks the largest telescope ever put in space, being roughly the size of a large truck at 43.5 feet long and 14.2 feet in diameter, and cost of over $10 billion to construct. Scientists are looking at the 344 mechanisms on board the telescope as potentially 344 points of failure, meaning that each of them must strike the right balance in the first attempt, with no chance at sending repair crews to the telescope if a fault occurs. Everyone on the team at NASA are optimistic that deployment will be successful however, and with any hope the James Webb Space Telescope will revolutionize our understanding of the universe, giving us viewpoints never before possible.
Visit NASA’s website for more information and to keep up with all the latest updates on this monumental journey.