NASA will soon be launching its massive space telescope into space that has cost the agency approximately $10 billion and more than 20 years to build. The astronomers are quite anxious about the launch as they think that anything can go wrong. This is because the telescope had so many problems before the launch.
“I will almost certainly watch the launch and be terrified the entire time,” University of New Hampshire physics professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein told the newspaper.
The Ariane 5 rocket, with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope on board, will be launched from a European facility in French Guiana on December 22. This is a very much anticipated event as this has been delayed several times.
Earlier, the engineers encountered an incident with the telescope where the telescope went through shock and was checked for any damage. Luckily, there were no issues identified. However, this does not mean they will be able to sleep peacefully before it gets launched with success.
Even once it’s in space, the telescope will have to deploy a gigantic mirror made up of several hexagonal mirror pieces, a process that will take six nail-biting and anxiety-inducing months to complete.
“The entire astronomy community, given the broad range of anticipated science returns and discovery potential, has skin in the game,” Yale astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan told the Times. “We are all intellectually and emotionally invested.”
“Any failure of JWST would be disastrous for NASA,” Cambridge University astronomer Martin Rees told the NYT in an email, noting that any points of failure during the unfurling of the mirrors could end up being “a mega-catastrophic and embarrassing PR disaster.”
However, it is natural to have a possibility of failure. There will always be that window, no matter how many precautions are taken.
If the machine is deployed successfully, the space telescope will transform the arena of space exploration, potentially rewriting our understanding of the early days of our universe — much like its predecessor, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.