The James Webb Space Telescope has successfully deployed its five folded solar shields, NASA reports. If that fails, the extravagant mission launched on Christmas will not be able to accomplish its mission.
The space telescope is about the size of a tennis court and had to be folded to fit the loading bay of an Ariane 5 rocket. The kite-shaped “canopy shield” is meant to make sure that the telescope in the shadows can detect all infrared signals from the far reaches of the universe.
The five shields were revealed one by one over the past two days. Project manager Bill Ochs has been up at night due to this difficult operation. The telescope is now in the middle of its journey to its workplace, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope was built by the European Space Agency (ESA), the United States (NASA), and Canada (CSA). James Webb can look back a billion years further than Hubble and will search for planets where life is possible, for distant galaxies and traces of the Big Bang.
The telescope must remain in use for at least ten years. The first images and data are expected in the summer.
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