New Delhi: Several weeks after conducting final checks and completing the testing of equipment, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) has jointly confirmed that the James Webb Telescope will now be launched on December 18. The telescope is set to embark on a ride outside Earth on the Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
The space agency plans to finish the final mission analysis review for the launch, shipment of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle elements to French Guiana from continental Europe, and the scheduled shipment of Webb to French Guiana by September-end.
“ESA is proud that Webb will launch from Europe’s Spaceport on an Ariane 5 rocket specially adapted for this mission. We are on track, the spaceport is busy preparing for the arrival of this extraordinary payload, and the Ariane-5 elements for this launch are coming together,” Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation said in a statement.
“We are fully committed, with all Webb partners, to the success of this once-in-a-generation mission,” he added.
The $10 billion (approximately INR 73,700 crores) observatory, is currently stowed at the contractor Northrop Grumman’s facilities in California’s Redondo Beach, where it is still awaiting shipping.
The main aim of the researchers is to use the space telescope, the most powerful and largest one ever built, to look back in time over 13.5 billion years to find traces of the first stars and galaxies that had formed, just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang took place.
One of the key features of the James Webb Telescope is its ability to detect infrared, as by the time the light from the first objects gets to the telescopes, it has shifted towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Resulting in the universe’s expansion.
The Hubble Space Telescope, currently, only has limited infrared capability. Astronomers are also hoping that the James Webb Space Telescope will supercharge the discovery of alien worlds as well.
The first planets detected orbiting other stars was in the 1990s and there are now as many as 4,000 or more exoplanets that have been confirmed.