NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope just completed its most critical task, unfolding its 21-foot wide gold-plated concave shaped primary mirror on Saturday, 14 days after its delayed launch on Dec 25, the NASA announced in a press release.
The James Webb mission, a joint effort with European Space Agency & the Canadian Space Agency, will explore light years into past, from with in our solar system to most distant observable galaxies in early universe.
The telescope had previously stretched its sun shield on Jan 4.
“I am so proud of the team, which spans continents & decades, which has achieved this one-of-a-kind achievement,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the scientific mission directorate at the headquarters of the NASA in Washington. Webb’s successful deployment exemplifies best that NASA has to offer: a willingness to try bold & challenging things in the name of as yet unknown discoveries.
“The successful deployment of Webb Space Telescope is historic,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters. “This is the first time that a NASA-led mission has attempted to complete a complex sequence to deploy an observatory into space – an extraordinary achievement for our team, NASA and the world.
The next task is to align the 18 hexagonal segments of main mirror so that they act as a single reflecting surface.
On January 23, the telescope will fire its engines to arrive at its intended destination, Earth sun Lagrange Point 2 (L2), approximately 930,000 miles from Earth. Meanwhile, Webb will adjust his mirrors & its final trajectory to destination. When Webb arrives at destination, its fuel consumption to stay-in its place will be at a minimum rate due to the near perfect alignments with Sun, Earth, & Moon.
“Today, NASA has taken a new technical step forward in decades of work. Even though the journey is not over, I’m joining Team Webb to breathe a little easier & imagining future discoveries that will inspire the world, ”said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
When James Webbs finally arrives at its destination, it cools itself, aligns itself, calibrates its instruments & run a diagnosis for 5 months.
The $10 billion observatory will start collecting data & send its first images later this year. The images shot by Webb expected to be released this summer.