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

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Aug 11, 2020 - Science

Researchers use Hubble Telescope to study Earth as an alien planet

Earth seen from orbit at night. Photo: NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope observed Earth as future tools could one day see a distant, alien planet.

Why it matters: These kinds of analogous experiments using Earth in place of an exoplanet (a world orbiting another star) give scientists a chance to see what a habitable planet may look like through telescopes if one is eventually found.

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52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Wall Street fears stimulus is doomed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The fight over a new Supreme Court justice will take Washington's partisan bickering to a new level and undermine any chance for needed coronavirus relief measures before November's election, Wall Street analysts say.

What we're hearing: "With the passing of Justice Ginsburg, the level of rhetorical heat has increased, if that seemed even possible," Greg Staples, head of fixed income for the Americas at DWS Group, tells Axios in an email.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 31,346,086 — Total deaths: 965,294— Total recoveries: 21,518,790Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,858,130 — Total deaths: 199,890 — Total recoveries: 2,615,949 — Total tests: 95,841,281Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Media: Conservative blogger who spread COVID-19 misinformation worked for Fauci's agency.
  5. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  6. World: U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections — "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.

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