The Webb Telescope Opens Its 21-Feet Golden Mirror for the Last Time on Earth

The world's biggest and most powerful space telescope opened its giant golden mirror for the last time on Earth on May 11th. This marked a significant step in preparing the observatory for its launch later this year.
The image shows the James Webb Space Telescope's mirrors during their final tests 9 photos
Photo: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), or simply Webb, was envisioned as a replacement for Hubble, and work on it began 30 years ago. Back then, its initial planned launch date was set for 2007. However, various setbacks, including a major redesign in 2005, pushed its planned launch date.

It was supposed to go up in space on March 31st this year, but the health crisis interrupted the preparations. Now, we finally have a date to mark on our calendar. The massive telescope is scheduled to launch on October 31st later this year.

For its final trials, NASA commanded the 6.5 meters (21 ft) mirror to fully expand and lock itself into position, much as it would in space. The team's final checkpoint in a long series of tests was aimed to ensure that Webb's 18 hexagonal mirrors are ready for a long journey in space (about 1 million miles/1.5 million km away from Earth-long).

After being introduced to the anticipated launch environment, all of Webb's many movable parts would have to prove that they can perform their intended operations. Making the testing conditions close to what Webb will experience in space helps to ensure the observatory is fully prepared for the telescope's mission.

In order to observe the deep space and conduct groundbreaking research, Webb's mirror must be so large that it cannot fit in its fully extended form inside any spacecraft available. The movable sections of Webb have to be folded like giant origami to squeeze within a 16-foot (5-meter) rocket fairing with very little space to spare.

Once in space, the telescope will unfold its parts and turn into a massive golden sunflower. Webb's primary mission will be to explore the mysteries within our solar system, as well as distant worlds orbiting other stars.

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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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