NASA is one big step closer to deploying the James Webb Space Telescope. The agency successfully deployed the JWST’s signature gold-coated primary mirror, completing all major implementations for the instrument. The mission crew has yet to align the telescope’s optics by moving the segments of the primary mirror (a process of months), but it’s a strong sign that the $10 billion device is in good working order.
The JWST also requires a third course correction fire as it heads toward the L2 Lagrange point between Earth and the sun. Astronomers will use the point to study infrared light without interference, potentially offering insights into the early Universe not possible with Hubble and other equipment.
The first images from the telescope won’t be available until the summer, and it could take much longer for those images to translate into meaningful discoveries. Still, the effort is an achievement. JWST represents the first time NASA has unpacked a complex observatory in space — showing that projects like this are viable, even if they’re unlikely to be commonplace for the foreseeable future.
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