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The James Webb Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/Chris Gunn

The launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed from March to October 31, 2021, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, the space agency announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The Webb is designed to be the space agency's successor to the Hubble Space Telescope as it nears the end of its operational life.

  • Once in space, the new observatory is expected to beam back never-before-seen images of the universe and help scientists learn more about galaxies, stars, distant planets and other objects.

Details: Three or more months of the delay are due to the coronavirus, according to NASA, with about four months attributed to technical issues.

  • “Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic," NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.
  • According to NASA, despite the holdup, the cost of the development of the observatory shouldn't exceed its current $8.8 billion cost cap.
  • NASA will continue testing the observatory this year and attempt to mitigate the continued risks posed by the pandemic before shipping the spacecraft to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.

The big picture: This isn't the first delay for the Webb. The observatory has been plagued with technical issues and budget overruns that caused its price tag to skyrocket and delayed its launch for years.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 20, 2020 - Science

NASA will attempt to snag an asteroid sample today

Bennu as seen by OSIRIS-REx. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA will attempt to grab a sample from an asteroid tonight.

The big picture: Scientists hope the sample from the asteroid Bennu will allow them to learn more about the early days of the solar system and how it has evolved over billions of years.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 20, 2020 - Science

NASA tags an asteroid

A global map of Bennu. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched the surface of an asteroid Tuesday in a bid to collect a sample from the space rock that will one day be returned to Earth.

Why it matters: Scientist are hoping to study a sample from the asteroid, named Bennu, to piece together more about the solar system's evolution. Asteroids are thought to be leftovers from the formation of planets billions of years ago.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

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