NASA has delayed the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which would be the successor to the Hubble. The space agency said the launch will happen a day later than the earlier stipulated time, on Christmas Day, December 25, from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, where high winds are a major factor. An Ariane 5 rocket will lift off on Saturday, carrying the next-generation space observatory. The $10-billion (roughly Rs. 75,330 crore) James Webb Space Telescope is the largest ever built and intended to help astronomers in breakthrough discoveries. It has been designed to look deeper into the universe than the Hubble and detect events from further back in time — over 13.5 billion years ago.
Hubble Space Telescope, currently the most powerful telescope in space, has offered great insights to astronomers for 30 years but its ageing and the need for a replacement was felt. So, NASA and ESA, who were also behind the Hubble project, decided to build an even larger and more powerful telescope. James Webb’s key difference from Hubble is that it can see in infrared. Scientists hope to use James Webb’s advanced capabilities to study the atmospheres of distant planets for signs of life.
NASA said in a blog post this week that they were targeting a launch date of December 25. A 32-minute launch window opens at 7:20am EST (5:50pm IST), it added. A BBC report said that mission controllers are taking into account high-level winds blowing in the wrong direction to avoid debris falling back on land if the launch fails. The ascent of the Ariane rocket is scheduled to last 27 minutes.
James Webb will be deployed in space some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth and it should take a month to complete the journey. “This is an extraordinary mission… It’s going to give us a better understanding of our Universe and our place in it,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.