NASA's James Webb Space Telescope slated for Christmas Eve launch

NASA: "Webb will reveal new and unexpected discoveries and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it."

 Artist's impression of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. (photo credit: ESA)
Artist's impression of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.
(photo credit: ESA)

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is set to be launched into space on Christmas Eve, December 24, where it will revolutionize astronomy and our understanding of the infinite reaches of the cosmos.

The Webb mission was undertaken in an international partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency. Using the telescope, the largest and most powerful space telescope in existence at this time, astronomers will be able to see everything from the solar system, the most distant galaxies on the far reaches of the observable universes.

"Webb will reveal new and unexpected discoveries and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it," NASA said in a statement.

These reflect the big plans the US space agency has for the telescope, which is set to replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope as the agency's flagship astrophysics mission. The massive telescope is 20.197 meters by 14.162 meters in size and weighs 6,500 kilograms, and comes equipped with superior sensitivity and infrared resolution than Hubble. 

Webb also comes equipped with a massive sunshield made of silicon- and aluminum-coated Kapton. This is to ensure the telescope's mirror and various instruments are kept below -223°C, which it needs for the infrared observation to properly function.

 The James Webb Space Telescope Mirror is seen during a media unveiling at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, Maryland November 2, 2016. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS) The James Webb Space Telescope Mirror is seen during a media unveiling at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, Maryland November 2, 2016. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Following its launch, the telescope will sit near the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, located nearly 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. For context, the Moon is located only around 384,000 kilometers away from the Earth.

The telescope has been in development for nearly two decades, with its launch being delayed numerous times due to technical issues and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Controversy has also been raised regarding the decision to name the telescope after James E. Webb, NASA's administrator in the 1960s who played a significant role in the Apollo program, due to allegations that Webb participated in the Lavender Scare, the persecution of LGBTQ+ government officials in the 1940s and 1950s. 

The launch will take place at approximately 7:20 a.m. EST in Korou, French Guiana on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport, and can be watched live on the NASA app, website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and Daily Motion.