James Webb Space Telescope: launch postponed to Christmas Eve

NASA, new postponement for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope: the historic mission will leave "not before December 24"

There is no peace for the James Webb Space Telescope: after nearly 15 years of postponements, controversies and technical problems, we may have an official launch date for the historic mission.

The largest and most powerful telescope ever made was designed to leave for deep space back in 2007, after more than 10 years of work by NASA, ESA and CSA - the Canadian Space Agency.

The most powerful telescope ever built

The James Webb Telescope is the largest, most powerful and technologically advanced space telescope ever built: it took 25 years, technicians and engineers from 15 countries around the world and about $10 billion, to get to the launch of the mission.

Today, James Webb stands - ready for launch a few days ago - atop ESA's Ariane 5 rocket, which will carry it out of Earth's atmosphere from Europe's Spaceport located in Kourou, French Guiana.

James Webb's mission is widely regarded as the most ambitious ever pursued in space since the Apollo missions took the first step on lunar soil. And it is indeed a mission of epochal importance, because the Webb Space Telescope will finally be able to study the formation of galaxies and planetary systems, investigate the origins of life and "see" the history of the Universe from its beginnings.

James Webb will directly observe a part of space, and time, never before observed, casting its infrared gaze back 13.5 billion years, when the first stars and galaxies in the Universe formed.

The technical challenges are countless: once launched about a million and a half kilometers from Earth, it will take at least six months to prepare all of its instrumentation before reaching its destination at the L2 Lagrange point between Earth and the Sun.

It will deploy its mirrors, solar panels and other small systems; only then will it be able to cool down, align, calibrate the systems and begin the actual mission, and finally investigate the secrets hidden in the Universe's earliest moments.

James Webb: launch "not before December 24"

So the wait seems to be over: in a short official note, NASA announces the last postponement of the launch.

According to the US Space Agency's website, "the James Webb team is working on a communication problem between the observatory and the vehicle's launch system."

This means that "the launch is postponed until December 24 at the earliest" - with good hopes of seeing the long-awaited mission launch by Christmas Eve. Confirmation of the launch, NASA explains, will come on Dec. 17.

This is a postponement of just two days from the last scheduled launch date of Dec. 22.

James Webb will be the most important scientific observatory ever sent into space, able to unravel the mysteries of our solar system and look with unprecedented precision at stars and distant worlds.

In the meantime James Webb is finally in the last spot he will occupy on our planet, on top of ESA's huge Ariane 5, placed on the Atlantic coast of French Guiana waiting for the magic moment when the most ambitious scientific space mission ever will start.