The new space telescope James Webb is due to go to space by the end of this year. The space agencies ESA (Europe) and NASA (United States), which built the device, report that the launch is scheduled for December 18.
The launch takes place from the Kourou European Space Base in French Guiana. The most important parts of the launcher have arrived there from Europe. The James Webb itself is in a laboratory in the U.S. state of California and is due to head for the launch base by the end of this month.
The James Webb should become the successor of the famous Hubble space telescope. It is approaching the end of his career after more than thirty years. The new telescope is bigger and sharper, and therefore needs to discover things hidden from the Hubble. In addition, the new observatory will not revolve around the Earth, like the Hubble, but around the Sun, 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. In that place, the James Webb has to look for planets where life might be possible, distant galaxies and traces of the Big Bang.
The project costs around EUR 8 billion in total. The new space telescope is about the size of a tennis court. The core is a 6.5-metre mirror of gold and beryllium. It catches the light out of space.
The development of the James Webb was laborious. The telescope has been working since 1996 and it was first planned to be launched in 2007, but it is shifted almost annually. For example, the developers seem to need longer than expected to test all new technologies on board properly. In addition, human mistakes have been made. This resulted in cracks in a sunshade. Seventy bolts shot loose in a vibration test. They fell into the telescope and a few still havent been recovered. Last year, the corona outbreak led to another delay.