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James Webb Telescope Reaches Final Destination

The James Webb Space Telescope is more sophisticated than its predecessor, the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

James Webb Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched by NASA, is the most powerful telescope ever built. Webb has reached its final destination in space, about 1 million miles away from the Earth. The telescope is named after James E. Webb, who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 and played an integral role in the Apollo program.

NASA explains that 30 days after its launch, the tennis-court sized James Webb Telescope made its way into a parking spot that’s about a million miles away from Earth. From there, it will begin its “ambitious mission to better understand the early days of our universe, peer at distant exoplanets and their atmosphere and help answer large-scale questions such as how quickly the universe is expanding.”

On Monday, Webb fired its onboard thrusters for nearly five minutes (297 seconds) to complete the final post launch course correction to Webb’s trajectory. This mid-course correction burn inserted the Webb Telescope toward its final orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, nearly 1 million miles away from the Earth.

“Webb, welcome home!” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today. We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!”

“We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!”

NASA explains how the James Webb Space Telescope is more sophisticated than its predecessor, the iconic Hubble Space Telescope. It will take pictures of the very first stars in the universe. Scientists say it will also study the atmospheres of planets orbiting stars outside of our own solar system to see if they might be habitable – or even inhabited.

Now that Webb’s primary mirror segments and secondary mirror have been deployed from their launch positions, engineers will begin the sophisticated three-month process of aligning the telescope’s optics to nearly nanometer precision.

On Monday Webb fired its onboard thrusters for nearly five minutes (297 seconds) to complete the final post launch course correction to Webb’s trajectory. This mid-course correction burn inserted Webb toward its final orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, nearly 1 million miles away from the Earth.

The final mid-course burn added only about 3.6 miles per hour (1.6 meters per second) – a mere walking pace – to Webb’s speed, which was all that was needed to send it to its preferred “halo” orbit around the L2 point.

“Webb, welcome home!” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today. We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!”

The James Webb Space Telescope’s orbit will allow it a wide view of the cosmos at any given moment, as well as the opportunity for its telescope optics and scientific instruments to get cold enough to function and perform optimal science. Webb has used as little propellant as possible for course corrections while it travels out to the realm of L2, to leave as much remaining propellant as possible for Webb’s ordinary operations over its lifetime: station-keeping (small adjustments to keep Webb in its desired orbit) and momentum unloading (to counteract the effects of solar radiation pressure on the huge sunshield).

“During the past month, JWST has achieved amazing success and is a tribute to all the folks who spent many years and even decades to ensure mission success,” said Bill Ochs, Webb project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We are now on the verge of aligning the mirrors, instrument activation and commissioning, and the start of wondrous and astonishing discoveries.”

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