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NASA set to launch James Webb Space Telescope on Christmas Eve

(AP/ Laura Betz)

Story at a glance

  • NASA has confirmed its long-awaited launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will take place on Christmas Eve morning.
  • Webb promises to further scientists’ understanding of the early universe.
  • Webb is roughly 100 more powerful than its predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA has confirmed it will launch its James Webb Space Telescope on Christmas Eve. 

The long-awaited launch will take place at 7:20 am EST from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, according to NASA’s website.

Webb’s launch had been delayed several times since 2018 and NASA, along with its collaborators the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency, scheduled to launch Webb on Dec. 18. 


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But NASA had to delay the launch by four days after the telescope was “jolted by a clamp during launch preparations,” according to The Associated Press (AP) and efforts to fix bad communications links delayed take off by two more days to Dec. 22. 

Now, the telescope is awaiting its final readiness check scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 21, and, if all goes as planned, a roll out on Wednesday, Dec. 22. 

The $10 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will lift off into space on top of a Ariane 5 rocket as it travels to its final destination roughly 1 million miles away from Earth, according to The Guardian.

Webb is about 100 times stronger than Hubble and will look back to around 200 million years ago when the universe’s oldest stars and galaxies started to form. To pick up faint light emitted from these far away stars, Webb will mostly look for near and mid-infrared light which is not visible to the human eye, according to Al Jazeera.

In order to do so, Webb will need to stay at an extremely cold temperature — around -370 degrees Fahrenheit — which it will maintain via an umbrella-like sunshield roughly the size of a tennis court that will keep the telescope and accompanying science instruments in the shade, according to NPR.

Fewer onlookers are expected at the launch giving the holiday season, NASA administrator Bill Nelson told the AP. 

“Since it’s Christmas Eve, all the congressional delegations that were going down, all of that has evaporated,” he told the outlet. 

Live coverage during launch day will begin at 6:00 a.m. EST.


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