The next big NASA space observatory has finally come together.
Engineers have joined both halves of the $ 9.7 billion James Webb Space Telescope due to launch in March 2021. August 28th.
"The assembly of the telescope and its scientific instruments, sunscreen, and spacecraft into an observatory is an incredible achievement for the entire Webb team," said Webb Project Manager Bill Ochs of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in New York Greenbelt , Maryland, said in a statement .
"This milestone symbolizes the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals for over 20 years throughout NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, Northrop Grumman, and other industrial and academic partners," added Ochs. 1
Recent work has been carried out on Redondo Beach, California, USA's main contractor for Webb, NASA's successor to the legendary Hubble Space Telescope (19459004) (19459005) ,
Using a crane, the engineers carefully lowered the telescope element, which consists of the optical and scientific equipment, onto the body of the spacecraft. Webb's complex foldable sunshade, which keeps the telescope's instruments cool during operation, was already connected to the spacecraft segment.
Subsequently, the team mechanically connected the two halves. According to NASA representatives, technicians have yet to establish and then test the electrical connections between the components.
The milestone for the assembly did not take long. The Webb Space Telescope mission has experienced a series of delays and cost overruns. For example, the price of the project has almost doubled since 2009, and its planned launch date has been postponed by almost seven years.
The telescope's great scientific potential makes all this hard work and combat worthwhile, according to NASA officials. The powerful Webb, optimized for infra-red viewing of the universe, allows astronomers to answer some of the greatest cosmic questions as it operates at Solar Lagrange Point 2, a gravitationally stable point in space of approximately 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
Researchers will use the Observatory to search for vital signs in the atmosphere of nearby extraterrestrial planets and to study the formation of the universe's first stars and galaxies some 13.5 billion years ago.
"This is an exciting time when all Webb parts are brought together for the first time in a single observatory," said Gregory Robinson, the Webb program director at NASA's Washington headquarters, D.C., in the same statement. "The engineering team has taken a big step forward, and soon we will be able to see incredible new views of our amazing universe."
Mike Wall's Book on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, Out There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate ) is available now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom or Facebook .