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The James Webb Space Telescope not long after its release from its rocket. Photo: NASA

After its Christmas Day launch, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has started to successfully deploy on the way to its perch 1 million miles from Earth.

Why it matters: The deployment of the $10 billion telescope is one of the riskiest parts of its mission. Getting through this phase will pave the way for the JWST's important science to come.

What's happening: This week, engineers "tensioned" the JWST's tennis court-sized sun shield that will keep the telescope's instruments cold, allowing it to more easily see out into the universe in infrared light.

  • The first three layers of the five-layer sun shield deployed Monday, with the final two successfully tensioned on Tuesday.
  • "This is a really big moment," JWST project manager Bill Ochs said after the sun shield was fully tensioned.
  • Now that all five layers of the sun shield are through tensioning, the telescope is about 70%–75% of the way through the 344 single points of failure that could spell major trouble for the telescope.

What's next: The JWST's next big event is the deployment of its secondary mirror used to reflect light back to its large gold-coated primary mirror.

  • That deployment should happen later this week.
  • If all goes according to plan with its commissioning and deployments, the JWST should start science operations toward the middle of the year.

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - Podcasts

Rethinking the value of COVID case counts

COVID case numbers have been breaking records in the last few weeks here in the U.S., but deaths and hospitalizations are largely down. So that got us thinking: how useful are case counts actually in understanding where we are in the pandemic?

  • Plus, the health care worker shortage, by the numbers.
  • And, why the James Webb Space Telescope is such a big deal.

Guests: Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative; Axios' Tina Reed and Miriam Kramer.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Sabeena Singhani and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Europe's energy reliance on Russia is a crucial shield for Putin

Photo: Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Cracks in the NATO alliance regarding sanctions for Russia should President Vladimir Putin order troops into Ukraine are in large part based on energy supply concerns.

Why it matters: Russia holds tremendous leverage over some European countries because it provides roughly 40% of Europe's natural gas supply. In Germany, this figure is greater than 50%.

Why the Fed might want to jolt the markets

Fed chair Jerome Powell at a hearing earlier this month. Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve's efforts to restrain inflation. They're doing the Fed's work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way.

  • But as the central bank's policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.