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The has opened its massive mirror for the final time on Earth. The next time the golden expanse blooms like an origami flower, it will be in space.
Webb’s main mirror spans over 21 feet (6.5 meters). It’s so big, it has to fold up to fit into the Ariane 5 launch vehicle that will protect it on its way into space where it will operate at a distance of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth.
James Webb can’t come soon enough. NASA and the European Space Agency’s iconic and old Hubble Space Telescope is still holding on, but has over recent years.
NASA unveils 30 dazzling new Hubble space images for an epic anniversary
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The new telescope will be powerful enough to peer into the early universe and expand our understanding of distant planets. It should be a worthy successor to Hubble’s legacy. It just needs to get into space first.
In a press briefing, NASA and Northrup Grumman — the primary contractor on the project — said the next-generation telescope is on track to launch this year. At one point, NASA was aiming for a 2007 launch, but technical delays and the to the current target of Oct. 31.
“To deploy, operate and bring its golden mirrors into focus requires 132 individual actuators and motors in addition to complex backend software to support it,” NASA said. “A proper deployment in space is critically important to the process of fine-tuning Webb’s individual mirrors into one functional and massive reflector.”