The nearly US$10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is set to take off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket one year from today.
Scientists and space enthusiasts of all stripes are excited about what this successor to the Hubble Telescope will further our understanding of the cosmos. Forbes science writer Jamie Carter:
“Webb” will study the solar system, directly image exoplanets, photograph the first galaxies, and explore the mysteries of the origins of the Universe. By detecting infrared light, Webb will be able to look further back in time than any other telescope thus far.
Webb is the most ambitious and complex space science telescope ever constructed, and tantalizingly soon it will be the plaything of scientists ... or, at least, that’s the plan.
Then the sad reality of how our world and the timelines for everything might be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally conceived in the 1990s and at first expected to launch in 2007, Webb has been beset by delays—the latest being COVID-19—but at the time of writing the massive telescope was safely in its cleanroom at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, and March 30, 2021, was still the target date for Webb’s launch. However, there could be an announcement on April 15, 2020 about a new schedule.
#NASAWebb is now a fully assembled observatory, and has accomplished multiple large deployments and movements that it will perform in space. This new time-lapse video highlights these recent critical milestones. #JWST #timelapse pic.twitter.com/N027BGFjuv
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) February 26, 2020