The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully launched the James Webb Space Telescope into space after years of delay, which is expected to help open human eyes to cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.
Webb was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket at 7:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Christmas Day (Dec. 25), rising skyward from a pad in French Guiana, South America, NASA said in a press release.
The space telescope will begin a 1-million-mile journey from Earth, which lasts about 29 days, before settling into orbit.
“Merry Christmas! We got you a new telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope launched today, beginning a one-million-mile journey to see 13.5 billion years into the past,” NASA tweeted.
NASA announced that the telescope was “safely in space, powered on and communicating with ground controllers” about five minutes after the launch.
“The telescope’s revolutionary technology will explore every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, to everything in between,” the administration said. “Webb will reveal new and unexpected discoveries and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the James Webb Space Telescope represents NASA’s ambition to “propel us forward into the future.”
“The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our universe,” Nelson said. “I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!”
Webb—the world’s largest and most complex space science observatory—will now begin six months of commissioning in space. At the end of commissioning, Webb will deliver its first images.
The telescope carries four state-of-the-art science instruments with highly sensitive infrared detectors of unprecedented resolution. It will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity than ever before.
The premier mission is the scientific successor to NASA’s iconic Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, built to complement and further the scientific discoveries of these and other missions.
“The launch of the Webb Space Telescope is a pivotal moment—this is just the beginning for the Webb mission,” said Gregory Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters.
President Joe Biden sent his congratulations to NASA following the launch of the telescope.
“Webb is a shining example of the power of what we can accomplish when we dream big. We’ve always known that this project would be a risky endeavor, but with big risk comes big rewards,” he said.