When is the James Webb space telescope launch?

AFTER more than two decades of development, NASA's next-generation space telescope is finally on the launch pad.

So what is its mission and when is the launch?

When is the James Webb space telescope launch?

The mammoth James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch at 7.20am eastern time on December 25.

The massive observatory will blast off during a 32-minute window from Kourou, French Guiana, along with an Ariane 5 rocket operated by European launch provider Arianespace.

In space, the telescope must perform a series of carefully designed maneuvers, with even a single misstep at risk of affecting the entire mission.

“This is a high-risk and a very high-payoff program,” NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy said. “There are a lot of hard, long weeks ahead, where the telescope has to deploy perfectly.”

You can watch the launch live on NASA's website.

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Why was NASA's James Webb Space telescope launch changed?

The largest space observatory in history is launching more than a decade late – partly because of unrealistic early plans, astronomers say.

Some of the delays are due to mistakes made during construction, including using the wrong solvent on its propulsion valves and shaking several screws loose during testing.

In addition, the launch was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying the flight from March to this fall.

The last delay was caused by a technical glitch and concerns about high-level winds at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, which pushed the launch another week to Christmas Day.

What is the James Webb telescope's mission?

As the $10bn successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb telescope aims to help scientists answer the big questions of the universe including its structure and origin.

NASA's website reads: "The observatory will study every phase of cosmic history -from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe."

More specifically, it will specialize in gathering infrared light, which will help astronomers study the very beginnings of the universe.

Scientists also expect to use its more advanced capabilities to study the atmospheres of distant planets in the hope that signs of life might be detected.

“Don’t think about it as a space telescope—it is a space-time telescope,” says Mark McCaughrean, senior science advisor at the European Space Agency (ESA). “It’s doing time travel at the same time it’s examining space. We’re looking back through the universe, close to the edge of the big bang 13.8 billion years ago.”

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