The world has been eagerly waited for NASA to launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) ever since NASA planned for it in the late Nineties, in a mission to replace the Hubble Space Telescope with a larger and better telescope.
However, NASA officials announced that they’re delaying the launch to March 30, 2021. With one more year to tweak it, they will also need another billion dollars. According to their announcement, they’re 80% sure to be on schedule – this time.
Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in an interview:
“Make no mistake: I’m not happy sitting here, having to share this story. We never want to do this. We always want to talk about the successes that we have. If you look at our inventory of missions, you see how many times we deliver missions below the cost and on schedule, and we’re really excited about this.”
“Webb is worth the wait.”
But the delay doesn’t come as a shock, considering they stated in 2003 that they plan to launch the JWST in 2011!
They didn’t launch it back then because the project was re-profiled, so they had to reconsider how to fit the telescope into a spacecraft. The budget grew from $2.5 billion to $8.7 billion, pushing the launch date to October 2018.
Then, last year in September, NASA announced that they would launch the JWST in the spring of 2019. This March, they postponed the launch to spring 2020. And this week, they’re postponing it for 2021, assuming no other delay.
NASA also announced that an independent review board report found some errors, which NASA scientists must correct. Among them, there was human error, problems with the hardware, spacecraft integration, unrealistic expectations, and even employee morale. The report also has responses from NASA regarding those issues and how they will address them in the next years.
A Huge Improvement Compared to the Hubble Telescope
The telescope has a huge mirror and a sun shield that will allow it to observe longer wavelengths of light compared to what the Hubble Telescope does currently. The Hubble’s mirror is almost 8 feet in diameter, while the JWST’s mirror will be over 21 feet diameter, meaning that researchers will see a huge improvement as they “peer” into the universe.
For such a massive telescope, NASA needs a sturdy spacecraft to carry it into space, and according to reports of screws going loose from the spacecraft discovered in acoustic testing also set back the launch.
Even with ten years of delays, NASA officials are optimistic about the JWST, and we also hope that “Webb is worth the wait.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.