Jan 11, 2022 - Science

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is here to last

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope before launch. Photo: NASA/Goddard/Rebecca Roth

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is fully deployed in space, and it should be able to perform its science for decades to come.

Why it matters: The longer the JWST can perform its science, the more data it can gather about the evolution of the universe. The $10 billion space telescope is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in space for more than 30 years.

Catch up quick: NASA completed the final major deployments that unfolded the telescope last weekend.

  • Now, the JWST needs to make it out to its perch about 1 million miles from Earth to truly start its scientific work. (If all continues as planned, it should begin its science about midway through the year.)
  • “The successful completion of all of the Webb Space Telescope’s deployments is historic,” Gregory Robinson, JWST program director at NASA headquarters, said in a statement.
  • “This is the first time a NASA-led mission has ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space — a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world.”

State of play: NASA's Mike Menzel, the JWST's mission systems engineer, said after analysis of the launch and its trip through space, the telescope appears to have enough fuel to function for at least 20 years.

  • That far exceeds the 10-year hoped-for timeline.

What to watch: The telescope isn't perfectly functioning yet. The JWST is expected to perform a burn to keep it on course shortly.

  • And the telescope will also need to calibrate its instruments and align its mirrors before science operations begin.
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