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JWST Pushed Back Again! Will Its Launch Be A Christmas Miracle?

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockDec 15 2021, 11:54 UTC
JWST being hoisted to the top of Ariane 5. Credit: ESA-M.Pedoussaut

JWST is being hoisted to the top of Ariane 5. Image Credit: ESA-M.Pedoussaut

NASA has announced the JWST will be delayed again, though just for a couple of days. It's possible the launch will now take place on Christmas eve in what will hopefully be a Christmas miracle.

However, this little bit of bad news comes on a wave of much more hopeful things. Over the last few days, the excitement for the launch of the next-generation space telescope, successor to Hubble, has been steadily increasing as the JWST was lifted and moved on top of the Ariane 5 rocket that will take the space observatory to deep space.  

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“The James Webb Space Telescope team is working a communication issue between the observatory and the launch vehicle system. This will delay the launch date to no earlier than Friday, Dec. 24,” according to NASA.

NASA has said more information will be published at the latest on Friday, December 17, hopefully with the news that the communication issue is now fixed and that there’s a confirmed launch date and time. Don't worry, we'll keep you posted.

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 The JWST will be located in a special position in space called L2 (Lagrangian Point 2) far beyond the orbit of the Moon and further than any human has gone before. This means it can't be fixed easily like Hubble, so everything needs to work perfectly from the start. This is why the team is taking such care in making sure that everything is functioning exactly as it should, however long it takes — to the credit of science, and the detriment of astronomers' nerves everywhere.  

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The space observatory is named after James Webb, the former NASA administrator during the Apollo program (1961-68). The choice of name has now become controversial as the involvement of Webb in the LGBT witchhunt that saw gay and bisexual scientists and civil servants purged from US federal jobs during the McCarthy years has come to light. This is why you may see it only referred to as JWST rather than its full name. Many astronomers feel that the next-generation observatory to take humanity into the future should reflect a more inclusive stance and thousands signed a petition to change its name, but NASA has so far declined to do so.  


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