New Space Telescope Reaches Final Stop Million Miles Out

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.
This 2015 artist’s rendering provided by Northrop Grumman via NASA shows the James Webb Space Telescope.  (Northrop Grumman/NASA via AP)

The world’s biggest, most powerful space telescope arrived at its observation post a million miles from Earth on Monday, a month after it lifted off on a quest to explore the distant reaches of the universe.

On command, the James Webb Space Telescope fired its rocket thrusters for nearly five minutes to go into orbit around the sun at its designated location, and NASA confirmed the operation went as planned.

The mirrors on the $10 billion observatory still must be meticulously aligned, the infrared detectors sufficiently chilled and the scientific instruments calibrated before observations can begin in June.

But flight controllers in Baltimore were euphoric after chalking up another success.

“We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

The telescope will enable astronomers to peer further than ever before.

“Webb is officially on station,” said Keith Parrish, a manager on the project. “This is just capping off just a remarkable 30 days.”

The telescope was launched from French Guiana at the end of Dec. A week and a half later, a sunshield as big as a tennis court stretched open on the telescope. The instrument’s gold-coated primary mirror — 21 feet (6.5 meters) across — unfolded a few days later.

The Webb is expected to operate for well over a decade, maybe two.

Considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which orbits 330 miles (530 kilometers) up, Webb is too far away for emergency repairs. That makes the milestones over the past month — and the ones ahead — all the more critical.

Spacewalking astronauts performed surgery five times on Hubble. The first operation, in 1993, corrected the telescope’s blurry vision, a flaw introduced during the mirror’s construction on the ground.

Whether chasing optical and ultraviolet light like Hubble or infrared light like Webb, telescopes can see farther and more clearly when operating above Earth’s distorting atmosphere. That’s why NASA teamed up with the European and Canadian space agencies to get Webb and its mirror — the largest ever launched — into the cosmos.

Reporting by AP

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!

Hamodia Logo