Science's ‘Most Important Tool' Finally Ready to Launch
The $0.5 billion James Webb Space Telescope became a $10 billion device when NASA spent billions to fix the design of its giant sunshield’s deployment mechanism.
WASHINGTON — The James Webb Space Telescope is finally ready to launch after NASA spent billions of dollars to fix the design of its giant sun shield’s deployment mechanism.
Now everyone’s holding fingers crossed that the $10 billion telescope won’t become the most expensive dud, ever.
Here are the details:
The Guardian reports that NASA will finally launch the $10 billion James Webb telescope on December 18. This will be the largest, most powerful and most complex telescope ever placed in space.
After many years of postponements, the telescope is now finally cleared for take-off on a European Space Agency Ariane rocket from Kourou in French Guiana.
Once in space, the telescope will take around a month to get to its final position, where it will orbit the sun at around 1,5 kilometers from Earth.
The launch of this very expensive telescope had been postponed quite a few times. Work on it began back in 1996 and the plan was to launch it in 2007.
The original price estimate was only $500 million, which is only 5 percent of the current price tag of $10 billion.
The telescope will feature a 6.5-meter mirror and a sun shield that will unfurl to the size of a tennis court once in space.
This massive sun shield has to fit into a tiny cargo bay, and solving the engineering problems of getting such a huge surface to unfurl successfully caused long delays and a ballooning budget.
Scientists are now hoping that the sun shield will be able to unfurl perfectly when it is 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. Otherwise the $10 billion dollar James Webb telescope might become the most expensive “oopsie” in history.
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