At long last, NASA has launched the James Webb Space Telescope. On Christmas morning, the telescope launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket after 14 years of development and a number of delays.
The JSWT will orbit the Sun, close to the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sun system. It will take around a month to reach its destination, after which researchers will be able to peek into black holes, observe some of the oldest galaxies in the universe and evaluate the habitability of various exoplanets.
NASA partnered with the European and Canadian space agencies to develop the project. The JSWT has been beset by delays throughout its long history. NASA initially hoped to launch it in 2007, but spiraling costs prompted engineers to re-think the telescope in 2005. The JSWT was then declared ready in 2016, but the project was once again put on hold because of construction complications. The telescope was assembled in 2019, but then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, leading to delays to testing and shipping.
After the JWST finally reached the spaceport, NASA set a launch date of December 18th. However, it delayed the launch until today due to last-minute inspections and a lack of favorable weather. Still, what’s a few days for such an important, long-in-the-works mission? The JWST is finally spacebound, and in the coming months, we’ll start to learn some of its discoveries.