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James Webb Space Telescope Launch Live Blog: All the Latest Updates


If you have a few minutes before takeoff to see what Webb’s deployment schedule and process will look like, watch the video above produced by Northrup Grumman, the main contractor for the Webb Telescope.

There are 344 single points of failure throughout the deployment that can scuttle the entire mission and render Webb useless, so each has to be successful, and a lot of these represent the first time we’ve attempted something like this, so we have to as well. get a lot of stuff the first time.

This is arguably the most complex space mission we have attempted since possibly the Apollo moon landing.

Also, why French Guiana? As well as being a joint effort between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency (and so we might have wanted to throw a bone at ESA by launching Webb from one of its facilities) , French Guiana is also on the terrestrial equator.

The speed of Earth’s rotation at the equator is actually faster than anywhere else, so launching in the same direction as the Earth’s rotation actually gives the Ariane 5 rocket a boost that will carry Webb into it. space, helping it reach the speed necessary to launch the telescope towards its destination 1 million kilometers away.

We are less than 30 minutes from the launch!

(Image credit: NASA, ESA and Hubble Heritage Team)

So what is so important about infrared?

In the image above, we have two different views of the famous Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula. The image on the left was taken by Hubble using visible light. See all this dust?

The image on the right is the same Pillars of Creation taken by Hubble’s limited infrared sensors. As you can see, the light that has been obscured by dust from the nebula has no problem passing through, and we can see all kinds of stars behind it that we couldn’t see before.

This is one of the reasons for the importance of infrared. The second, and arguably the most important, is that the oldest galaxies and stars in the universe, the ones that formed over 13.5 billion years ago, have been so redshifted. that their light penetrates deep into the infrared spectrum.

We can’t see this light now, but with Webb we can, and we have no idea what the universe will look like at this wavelength of light. It’s a very exciting thing.

So let’s talk about some facts about the James Webb Space Telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a $ 10 billion project that began almost as soon as the Hubble Space Telescope became fully operational following a critical repair in 1993.

As a so-called “hot telescope,” Hubble would never be able to fully see the infrared spectrum of light due to interference from the Earth, the Sun, and even its own optical instruments.

In addition, there is the difficulty that comes from the space dust surrounding the Earth.

In order to get the best possible view of the universe, Webb has to be incredibly cold (around -388 degrees Fahrenheit / -233 degrees Celsius) and incredibly far from Earth at a distance of around 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers).

The Ariane 5 rocket on the launch pad in French Guiana

(Image credit: NASA)

The Ariane 5 rocket is refueling as we speak and everything is on track for launch in about an hour.

By the way, merry Christmas everyone!

Welcome to TechRadar’s James Webb Space Telescope Launch Live Blog! This is John, TechRadar’s resident science geek, and obviously I can’t tell you how excited we are all about this launch.

This is truly a historic moment for NASA, as this is one of the most complex space missions it has ever undertaken. There are almost 350 single points of failure where the whole mission can collapse, and we basically have a $ 10 billion wreckage that blows into space after nearly two decades of work.

Needless to say, the next 29 days are going to be the proverbial month of hell, and I for one know that I will be monitoring Webb’s progress for the next four weeks and keeping you all updated as we go.