The James-Webb Space Telescope successfully completed, Saturday, January 8, the last stage of its deployment, with that of its main mirror. It is now in its final configuration to be able to begin, in a little over five months, its exploration of the cosmos.
The telescope’s iconic main mirror measures around 6.5 meters in diameter, so it was too large to fit into a rocket as it was when it lifted off two weeks ago. Its two sides must therefore have been folded back.
The first of those two wings was deployed on Friday, and the second opened on Saturday morning, as scheduled, NASA said. The space agency teams continued to lock it, however, in order to secure it permanently. ” I am movedThomas Zurbuchen, head of science missions at NASA, said by video. What an extraordinary step. ” NASA broadcast live footage from the control room on Saturday morning, where dozens of engineers applauded the announcement of the full deployment of the telescope, which is flown from Baltimore on the US East Coast.
The mirror are in place now! An amazing @NASAWebb milestone with @northropgrumman manager Scott Willoughby… https://t.co/pgU0KAywE5
Scientific instruments still need to cool down
Deploying such a telescope in space, not only of its mirrors but also of its heat shield earlier this week, was an ultra-perilous procedure that had never been carried out in the past. The mission now appears to be on the right track for success.
Before being operational, however, the telescope will still have to reach its final orbit 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, and scientific instruments will have to continue to cool before being very precisely calibrated.
The most powerful space observatory ever designed, James-Webb must in particular make it possible to observe the first galaxies, formed only around 200 million years after the Big Bang.