After nearly 30 years of planning and thorough work, NASA finally got to launch its $10 billion next-generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), on top of a European Ariane 5 rocket. The launch took place in French Guiana, South America and is expected to get JWST to space.
Once there, JWST will free itself of the rocket carrying it and will then spend the next month traveling to its final destination roughly 1 million miles from Earth. It will also unfurl into its final shape ideal for exploring the cosmos, according to the BBC.
The event marks an impressive launch that is regarded as one of the grand scientific endeavors of the 21st Century, but that almost didn't happen. The project was burdened by years of delays and billions of dollars of overspends. Many even called to cancel the project.
This long history of failures made the launch very stressful but now comes the real test. JWST now needs to unfold a tennis-court-sized telescope in space in an environment where anything can go wrong — if something does indeed go wrong, all will be lost.
However, scientists are too excited but all that could go right, resulting in JWST giving us new views of every phase of cosmic history and helping us to answer the questions: How did the Universe come to be, and are we alone in it? JWST will do this by capturing light that has been traveling through space for 13 billion years.
"One of my favorite things about astronomy in general is that it really gets right down to our big questions: Where do we come from? How did we get here? Are we alone? These questions are more than just arcane science questions; they're questions that get to the heart of what it means to be human," said Nasa deputy project scientist Dr. Amber Straughn to the BBC.
If you enjoyed this quote make sure to read this poem that we commissioned the poet and science writer Krishna Sharma to write about JWST.